Myanmar’s military coup creates banking woes

25 February, 2021 12:00 AM printer

YANGON: Early bird customers of a military-owned bank queued anxiously as dawn light crept over Yangon, after a strict new limit on daily cash withdrawals fuelled rumours of a money shortage in post-coup Myanmar.

Myawaddy Bank is among scores of military-controlled businesses in Myanmar facing boycott pressures since the generals ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power on February 1, reports AFP.

Nationwide protests have called for employees -- including bank workers -- to skip work, seizing up a banking sector heavily dominated by the military and its cronies ahead of the monthly payday this Friday.

For those in need of cash, it does not help that no clear information has been released.

In commercial hub Yangon, private banks remain mostly closed, government banks seem partly open, and getting cash from ATMs appears to be a touch-and-go endeavour.

The uncertainty has fuelled worries of cash shortages, said Tun Naing, a 43-year-old businessman who has queued up daily for the past week to withdraw six million Myanmar kyat -- or about $4,500 -- from his Myawaddy bank account.

"Because of rumours about this bank, I came to withdraw my money," he told AFP.

Despite being the sixth-biggest domestic bank in Myanmar, Myawaddy is only allowing 200 customers per branch to make withdrawals limited to 500,000 kyat a day -- about $370.

Getting a spot in the morning is key, with "some people staying at nearby hotels to queue early for tokens", Tun Naing said.

Retired teacher Myint Myint has been queueing every day for a week but still has not been able to make a withdrawal.

"I'm really fed up," the 64-year-old told AFP.

"They should announce through (state-run media) that our money is okay... Although my savings are not much, I'm worrying because of rumours."

Despite the irregular opening schedules of banks across Yangon, a notice in state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar claimed that daily services were still being provided.

"People are requested to take part in this process for ensuring economic stability of the country," read the Central Bank notice.

While the risk of cash shortages in the country is high, the timeframe is unpredictable, said Myanmar-born international business expert Htwe Htwe Thein from Australia's Curtin University.