Myanmar bank faces boycott after freezing accounts to block donations to anti-coup forces


A prominent Myanmar bank is facing boycott calls by those accusing it of suspending accounts at the junta’s behest to deny donations to anti-coup forces.

Kanbawza Bank’s KBZPay e-payment app has seen its rankings plummet on the Android and Apple app stores, where users have expressed their anger in a flood of negative reviews after they lost access to their funds.

“Uninstalling!! It used to be a very convenient money transfer app,” read a recent one-star review. “Now it’s freezing people’s account and money for unsound reasons. We have solid proof. I suggest others to move to another platform too now that it’s fully controlled by the military junta and locking people out of their accounts.”

One user who said that he used the app to support the fight against the military, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his mobile wallet was frozen Saturday. He called customer service and asked for an explanation that left him unsatisfied.

“Not only my mobile wallet, my bank account was also frozen. There are around MMK 180 million ($109,200) in total, and I am still following up with the authorities to see what will happen to it.”

He said that he’d found out a junta order was behind the move, but did not elaborate. He added that someone from the bank warned him that account owners could be detained and interrogated.

Attention to the issue was amplified yesterday by a 19-year-old pop singer.

“My KBZPay account that received donations was frozen around 11 o’clock today. The money is safe but MMK200,000 ($121) was there,” John Derek wrote on Facebook. “If KBZPay obeys the dictator’s orders and imposes arbitrary sanctions on behalf of the people, we must also oppose KBZPay. I would like to urge KBZPay to pay close attention to the current crisis and to protect the people as soon as possible,” he added.

Such apps have been used to steer funds toward opposition forces, such as a growing paramilitary force aiming to fight against the military.

The National Unity Government,  or NUG, which is led by lawmakers from deposed head of state Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, has formed a militia of so-called regional defense forces.

Others donated via KBZPay to help refugees and jobless civil servants.

Kanbawza Bank had not responded publicly to the controversy as of publication time.

The private, commercial bank was founded in 1994 in Myanmar’s Shan State. It has over 40% market share in the personal finance sector. KBZPay, its mobile wallet platform, was launched to increase access to Myanmar’s burgeoning digital economy.

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