Junta demands dollars be changed for kyats – or else

Photo: Isriya Paireepairit /  CC BY-NC 2.0
Photo: Isriya Paireepairit / CC BY-NC 2.0

People were angry today about the junta’s new law requiring that earnings in foreign currencies must be exchanged for kyats.

A dollar shortage is suspected in the central bank’s Sunday announcement that local businesses and private parties would have to exchange their US dollars for Myanmar kyats (with US$1 pegged at MMK1,850) within one business day of opening a foreign exchange account at a licensed bank. 

A 22-year-old social marketing professional at a Yangon PR firm told Coconuts that the difficulties faced by their industry since the coup were going to be much worse under the new rule.

“If this continues, I think it will be more of a challenge for local-, small-, and medium-sized businesses, and they will not be able to focus on marketing as much as multinational companies,” he said, asking that his name be withheld for fear of repercussion. 

He said many businesses are already losing money due to the devaluation of the kyats, with some already closing down and leaving Myanmar.

The central bank said it would update the regulation with changing exchange rates.

State media published the order which also requires approval from a Foreign Exchange Supervision Committee for any transfer of foreign currency under threat of prosecution.

While many complained the move was an absurd return to the dark ages of two decades ago, when foreign exchange certificates and the black market played a big role, observers saw it as a measure of economic desperation as the kyat falls and sanctions put dollars out of reach.

The public response was harsh.

“Wow, what a skillful ruler Baba (Min Aung Hlaing) is! He can truly bring our country back from the brink in just one year,” one social media user wrote sarcastically.

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