Workers at Myanmar’s Private Banks Join Nationwide Anti-Coup Work Stoppage

By The Irrawaddy 16 February 2021

YANGON—Employees of private banks across Myanmar have joined the growing civil disobedience movement (CDM) against the military regime, which overthrew the democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

With a majority of their employees now taking part in the CDM, and endorsing its “no recognition, no participation” approach, private banks nationwide have since Feb. 8 closed almost all branches due to a shortage of staff, resulting in sluggish banking services and financial transactions.

Participating bankers told The Irrawaddy they were continuing the movement for a second week on Monday.

Veteran democracy activist U Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 1988 uprising, said on his Facebook page that this is the most important week yet for the civil disobedience movement, and singled out the key role of financial institutions.

“Banks in particular are in the most important place [to make the CDM successful],” he said in a video message.

The Yangon Region Administrative Council reportedly planned to provide security for banks and help them maintain their operations, but with staff continuing the CDM on Monday, private banks’ branches remained closed.

An employee of private lender KBZ Bank in Yangon said banks had to close because their employees were out in the streets protesting against the coup.

Banks have closed due to a shortage of staff. / The Irrawaddy

“All of our bank branches are closed [on Monday]” he said. He added that though banks have been closed, money could be withdrawn through ATMs.

“We will keep doing this until [the military regime] is over,” said a banker in Yangon going by the pseudonym of Ma Snow. She joined the CDM a few days after the movement was launched by medical professionals on Feb. 3, informing her supervisors that she would no longer be coming to work, as she had joined the CDM together with her colleagues.

“Like everyone else, we totally reject the coup. Thus, we are participating in all ways, like joining in the CDM and holding street protests, to fight against the regime,” she added.

Another banker who joined the CDM said, “We can’t just sit idly by. The CDM is something we can and must do.”

Besides stopping work, banking staff in several cities have also held street protests for several days, declaring their support as bankers for the CDM and urging others to join in.

Ma Snow, who has been in the banking sector for 18 years, added that if more staff from state-owned banks and semi-government banks joined the movement, the CDM within the banking sector would be 100-percent successful.

Some staff from Myanmar’s Central Bank and Myanmar Economic Bank have also joined the movement. By last week, over 100 staff of the Central Bank, including employees of both the headquarters in Naypyitaw and other branches, had joined.

The military has replaced the Central Bank’s governors and deputy governors since the Feb. 1 coup. Deputy Governor U Bo Bo Nge, who was appointed by the National League for Democracy administration, remains under detention, though other deputy governors have been released by the military.

In an earlier announcement, the Central Bank urged banks to operate normally and systematically.

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