Gen Aung San to Once Again Feature on Burma’s Bank Notes

By Htet Naing Zaw 15 November 2013

NAYPYIDAW — The vice chairman of the Central Bank confirmed this week that the financial institution will work with the government to issue bank notes featuring the image of Burma’s independence hero, Gen Aung San.

Khin Saw Oo told lawmakers at a meeting of the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday that revamped currency designs would go into circulation following consultations between the Central Bank and the government. The new-look bank notes will include pictures of well-known political leaders, and prominent buildings and landscapes in Burma.

Thein Nyunt, a Lower House member representing Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township, said he was pleased with the outcome of his proposal to reinstate Aung San’s image on the country’s currency.

“I have gone through a number of Parliament sessions in which I couldn’t gain any result from my proposals, so I am relieved this time,” Thein Nyunt told The Irrawaddy.

On Wednesday, Thein Nyunt submitted a motion to the Lower House proposing that the image of a lion, currently imprinted on several different bank note denominations and a shared symbol of Burma’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), should be removed from the currency. The lawmaker said it was inappropriate for national bank notes to feature the same image as a political party.

Than Lwin, a former central bank vice chairman and the current deputy chairman of Kanbawza Bank, told The Irrawaddy that there should be a clause in the Central Bank’s bylaws requiring that the image of Aung San and other portraits of respected national leaders be imprinted on future bank notes.

Burma’s currency previously featured Aung San, but those bills gradually disappeared after 1988, the year of a crackdown by the ruling military regime on pro-democracy protestors. Bank notes with Aung San’s image can still be found for sale by street vendors in Rangoon as novelty items, in denominations as low as 1 kyat.

Than Lwin added that the printing of nations’ prominent former leaders on bank notes was a well-established precedent, practiced by other governments in honor of the individuals’ efforts in service of country. India’s Mohandas Gandhi, Pakistan’s Muhammad Ali Jinnah and China’s Mao Zedong are all featured on bank notes in their respective countries.

On Feb. 13 this year, the day Aung San was born, Rangoon-based youth groups called on the government to once again imprint their late hero’s picture on bank notes.

Aung San and six members of his cabinet were assassinated on July 19, 1947, six months before Burma gained independence from Britain.