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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Myanmar Central Bank Will Issue Highest Denomination Banknote as Economy Suffers

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BANGKOK (AP) — The Central Bank of army-ruled Myanmar will issue a new banknote worth twice as much as the current highest denomination, state-run media reported Sunday, in a possible reaction to the economy becoming more unstable since the generals seized power in 2021.

The reason for issuing a higher denomination note of MMK 20,000 (about USD 9.50) was not explained.

Since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, economic boycotts and sanctions imposed by Western nations have hurt both big businesses and ordinary people, many of whose lives have already been disrupted by civil war and the coronavirus pandemic.

The issuance of new, higher denomination currency is associated in popular belief with a risk of inflation, though there isn’t necessarily a link. Older Myanmar residents are especially sensitive to changes affecting the currency, recalling the sudden demonetization of banknotes in 1987 during an earlier dictatorship, which reportedly affected around 80% of the money in circulation.

The action spurred discontent that contributed to a 1988 uprising against military rule that failed but also led to the birth of the Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

A report on state-run MRTV television said the MMK 20,000 notes will be issued in a limited number beginning 31 July.

The state media reports said the new banknotes would be available only by exchanging damaged lower denomination notes with the same value at branches of the central bank in the capital Naypyitaw and the cities of Yangon and Mandalay.

The notes show an albino elephant on the front and two bridges, a symbol of infrastructure development, on the back. Albino elephants are usually dubbed white elephants, symbols of good luck in several Southeast Asian cultures.

The banknotes commemorate the first birthday of one such elephant and the construction of a giant Buddha statue in Naypyitaw.

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By Associated Press

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