Gen Aung San to Return to Banknotes Despite Military Disapproval
By San Yamin Aung 17 November 2017
YANGON — The entire bloc of military appointees in the Lower House stood up against a motion to reinstate the image of the country’s late independence hero Gen Aung San on the country’s currency on Friday.
Surprisingly, all 107 of the unelected military representatives and one lawmaker from the former ruling military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) boycotted a proposal urging the Union Government to issue future notes showing the face of the late hero.
The military’s disagreement immediately encountered angry reactions on a live stream of the parliamentary session on the Lower House Facebook page.
The bloc was defeated by votes from 286 lawmakers from the ruling National League for Democracy party and other lawmakers from the USDP and also a dozen ethnic parties, who supported reinstating the former general’s image of the currency, which was phased out by the former military junta.
Parliament’s approval of the proposal could be considered a breakthrough for the NLD and its supporters.
Pictures of Gen Aung San, the father of Myanmar’s State Counselor and de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, were first printed on currency notes in 1958, 10 years after he was assassinated along with eight of his colleagues.
But those bills were gradually removed from circulation after the rise of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a leader of the Burmese pro-democracy movement following the 1988 student uprising.
The banknotes were later redesigned with a lion or elephant on the front and the country’s famous buildings and landscapes on the other side.
Military appointee Lt-Col Kyaw Min Hlaing told lawmakers that the animals – peacocks, lions and elephants – were featured on the notes as all Myanmar ethnic groups valued and acknowledged them as national symbols, during the discussion on the proposal submitted by NLD lawmaker U Aung Khin Win.
He said the proposal shouldn’t be considered while the country’s economic growth is slow, citing the redesign and printing cost for new banknotes.
NLD Lower House lawmaker Daw Wint Wah Tun replied that she seconded U Aung Khin Win’s proposal as it meant not to replace the current banknotes of various denominations from circulation with new banknotes, which could be between 100 billion to 300 billion kyats.
Instead it suggested using banknotes with the image of Gen Aung San rather than pictures of animals whenever the Central Bank needed to replace damaged notes or to release new sizes or new denominations in the future, she said.
NLD lawmaker U Aung Khin Win who submitted the proposal said, “It goes without saying that people would love to use banknotes with the image of Bogyoke rather than with pictures of lions or elephants,” at the previous parliamentary session.
Seven other lawmakers participated in the discussion during Friday’s parliamentary session, agreeing to the proposal.
U Soe Min, a deputy governor of the Central Bank, also supported the proposal.
NLD lawmaker U Aung Khin Win who submitted the proposal said, “It goes without saying that people would love to use banknotes with the image of Bogyoke rather than with pictures of a lion or elephant,” at the previous parliamentary session.