YANGON — More than 100 people in the Shan State-China border town of Muse protested against Chinese banks on Friday for locking them out of their accounts for nearly 10 days, according to local sources.
Chinese authorities confirmed that banks had locked a total 5,000 accounts on June 15 in what they called a crackdown on money laundering, gambling, and crime, in an attempt to increase border trade stability.
Of these accounts, 320 were locked by the China Agriculture Bank, and the rest were locked by the China Construction Bank, said U San Hlaing, the deputy district administrative officer of Muse Township.
The protesters held posters and slogans calling on Chinese banks to reopen their accounts as soon as possible.
Protester Daw Htwe Kyi told The Irrawaddy that she believed nearly 1,000 people in Myanmar were affected by the move, and that authorities from the banks told them that they were preparing to unlock the accounts but that they were not given an exact date when their funds would be accessible.
Chinese bank officers and the deputy governor of Yunnan province told the Myanmar border authorities at a meeting last the weekend that they would reopen the accounts, but they also did not mention when this would occur, according to U San Hlaing.
“From the side of our government, we are working on it. From the side of China, they were also checking when the accounts could be reopened,” he said.
Chinese ambassador to Myanmar Yang Shouzheng met with Burmese Interior Ministry police in Naypyidaw on June 22 to discuss the issue.
A statement from the Chinese embassy said that Yang Shouzheng informed Myanmar authorities at the meeting that the crackdown, meant to halt online gambling, was a reasonable response from the Chinese government, and that it would not damage trade relations, or anti-crime initiatives with its southern neighbor.
The statement also said that China aimed to promote border trade stability with Myanmar in order to protect border traders in the region.