Business

Banks Reminded to Accept Foreign Currency in ‘All’ Conditions

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 13 July 2016

RANGOON — The Central Bank of Myanmar is encouraging patrons to lodge complaints if they have been turned away by banks for trying to exchange US dollars that are not in mint condition, according to an official from the Foreign Exchange Management Department.

Until recently, currency exchange points would only accept US bank notes if the bills were new and uncreased. In 2012, the Central Bank instructed both private banks and exchange counters to accept dollars in any condition, yet four years later, customers continue to see worn-out or “tainted” notes rejected.

“We’ve already announced that money changers must accept all notes but at different rates, but there are complaints circulating that some changers don’t accept [all] notes,” said Win Thaw, director-general of the foreign exchange department.

“We encourage them to send letters of complaint to the Central Bank of Myanmar with good evidence, and we will take action […] but we have not received any complaints so far,” he added.

Some foreign visitors, said Sabei Aung, managing director of Nature Dream Travel and Tour Agency, have complained to her about Burma’s practice of rejecting notes based on their condition, pointing out that this does not, to her knowledge, occur in other countries.

“[Money changers] only want crisp dollar notes. Foreign visitors say that it annoys them that this country is practicing this awful habit. They accept that if notes are old, rates are lower, but they don’t understand why [money changers] can refuse to accept them,” she said.

“If the government can make those money changers follow the rules, it will support our tourism industry to develop more too,” Sabei Aung added.

Soe Thein, executive director of Asia Green Development Bank, questioned whether the Central Bank itself would accept these notes sold back to them as well.

Sometimes, he alleged, staff at the Central Bank had been known to turn away what they deemed as “old notes.”

“We want them to accept those notes, too,” Soe Thein said.

Prior to 2011, when Burma experienced an increase in international visitors due to the shift toward a nominally civilian government, exchanging Burmese kyat into any foreign currency was illegal, with few exceptions. Due to US sanctions, much external trade in dollars was done through Singapore, where crisp, new dollar bills were demanded.

The government had offered tourists its own rate of exchange—six kyats to the dollar, drastically below the dollar’s value in Burma—but the system was abandoned after the kyat was floated in March 2012; the exchange rate now hovers at around 1,180 kyats for one US dollar.

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