Myanmar dispatches: going to the bank during the coup is like ‘catching a tiger in the Amazon rainforest’
Myanmar dispatches: going to the bank during the coup is like ‘catching a tiger in the Amazon rainforest’

JURIST EXCLUSIVE – One of the Myanmar law students reporting for JURIST considers the practical circumstances of everyday financial life in Myanmar under the military coup. Formerly straightforward everyday things like going to the bank are becoming increasingly difficult as the country’s economic infrastructure grinds to a halt. She explains:

I was literally at the bank all day to inquire about  a bank transaction. I tried to get an appointment by using mobile banking applications and also in person. Either way is not easy at all. To take out our own money is as difficult as winning a lottery now. Only a few people can get appointments. Within a few seconds, all dates within a week are fully booked so we can’t take out money. And next week is also uncertain to get the appointment.

I tried to link all bank accounts with mobile banking yesterday; going back and forth from customer service centers to ATM machines. Somehow it’s a bit better to monitor bank savings from home. Another wave of covid is coming again so it won’t be safe to go out more often.

We all have to change our phone numbers linked with our bank accounts because MPT and Mytel sim cards can be accessed by SAC [the junta authorities]. By tracking our bank transactions, they might find out if we’re giving any financial support for CRPH, NUG, EAOs and CDM staffs.

ATM machines near banks, public areas and everywhere are not filled anymore. Bank branches are the only place we can take out our own money. 500000 Ks [304.507 USD] is the most we can take out a week from a person’s bank account.

The bank staff says they carry ATM machines on cars and drive around sometimes. They say they’ll announce the venue in their Facebook private group. This makes no difference either. Let alone taking out at most 200000 Ks [121.803 USD], I have to be lucky enough to catch that moving vehicle in this big city.

Catching a tiger in the Amazon rainforest would be easier.

Mobile wallet platforms like KBZpay and Wavepay can be used to transfer money easily but the agents do not open their shops anymore so this isn’t a way out either.

So, people just encourage each other to use mobile wallet platforms rather than cash. This is effective to an extent. Last month, there were a lot of exploitation in mobile wallet agents and illegal charges from bank staffs. They charge 10% on cash outs. This is ridiculous. Now, it’s lowered to 6%.

Some people even give cash outs by not taking any charge. In process of donating CDM staffs, some staffs ask for cash so we have to make that happen for them too. We totally understand they get very little as donation when they became jobless and giving 10% of that money as cash outs charge is unfair.