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Myanmar Central Bank Moves to Dispel Counterfeit Banknote Rumors


FILE - A woman shows Myanmar banknotes in Yangon, Myanmar, June 9, 2011.
FILE - A woman shows Myanmar banknotes in Yangon, Myanmar, June 9, 2011.

Officials from the Central Bank of Myanmar are attempting to counter rumors that newly printed and legitimate banknotes are counterfeit currency.

U Win Thaw, vice governor of the Central Bank, told VOA Burmese on Thursday that the newly printed currency in circulation was real even though it looks and feels slightly different when compared with older bills.

“There is no counterfeit banknote issue,” said Win Thaw. “The Central Bank issues the banknotes and we have the responsibility to ensure the quality and security.”

After the European Union issued sanctions that prevented companies from doing business in Myanmar after the military junta seized power on February 1, 2021, the German company Giesecke+Devrient of Munich, ceased banknote production, according to the news agency AFP.

Although the junta-controlled Central Bank of Myanmar “did not officially announce that it was printing new money, fresh banknotes began entering circulation in August 2021,” according to The Irrawaddy, a local news outlet. As the colors of some new notes were said to have faded or changed, people began to question them, with the most recent round of doubt coming earlier this month.

Win Thaw said the bank “will identify and take action” against people who posted “false information” about the new currency being counterfeit, a move he said was “the work of an indiscriminate, destructive opposition to attack the prospering banking sector. This is the third and fourth time that this has happened."

There is a history of counterfeiters targeting Myanmar’s currency, the kyat. By 2014, the government had started to issue banknotes with security features to make it easier to discern fake currency. Yet on March 5, workers at a garment factory in Hlaing Tharyar, a township in the western part of Yangon, found counterfeit 10,000-kyat notes in their pay. A 10,000 kyat note is worth about $5.60.

The latest rumors of counterfeit bills tapped into the post-coup erosion of confidence in the kyat, which left the military facing what Lindsay Maizland, a senior writer/editor, Asia for the Council on Foreign Relations, called “widespread, fierce opposition,” organized citizen militias and a shadow government formed by officials from the deposed administration.

The kyat’s value against the dollar has declined from 1,329 on January 31, 2021, the day before the coup, to 1,775 on March 16, 2022.

Economist Than Soe told VOA Burmese, "People are already losing faith in the kyat, which has led to a decline in the value of the currency. People are less willing to hold on to the kyat."