Regime detains bank officials in latest bid to force private banks to reopen

The junta-controlled Central Bank of Myanmar has arrested top officials of several private banks in an effort to pressure them to resume operations, bank employees say.

Despite making repeated calls on the banks to reopen, the regime has yet to get Myanmar’s banking system restarted since it largely shut down in the wake of the February 1 coup. 

Most banks in Yangon and other centres around the country remain closed in defiance of the Central Bank’s warnings of “consequences” if they don’t go back to business as usual.

This stalemate has resulted in the arrest of senior officials from several banks, according to bank employees who say that even branch managers have been targeted.

“They have arrested bank officials. It’s basically kidnapping. Some are on the run, and some have quit,” a bank manager told Myanmar Now.

Many of the orders have come directly from Than Than Swe, the junta-appointed deputy governor of the Central Bank, who officials say has even advised the regime on how to punish those who fail to comply.

Some in the industry say that Than Than Swe and the bank’s board of directors should be held accountable by the international community and the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which represents Myanmar’s ousted civilian government.

On Tuesday, the deputy governor sent another letter to private banks, this time saying they would be fined if they do not reopen.

The letter, written by deputy managing director Tin Nyo Htun on behalf of Than Than Swe, states that the size of the fine would be determined by the scale—big, medium, or small—of the bank.

It mentions that 49 private bank branches that did not reopen between March 15 and March 19 as ordered had been already been fined 5 million kyat ($3,550), and that the money has been taken from the banks’ accounts at the Central Bank.

This was followed on Wednesday by another letter warning private banks, financial companies and mobile banking services to start taking action against employees who have not been coming to work.

A major cause of the shutdown is that many people working in the banking sector have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement aimed at ending military rule.

Meanwhile, in mid-March the regime claimed that it had taken legal action against the SME Development Bank for alleged money laundering.

The charges were made in connection with about $1.5 million in funding from the Open Society Foundation, run by American billionaire George Soros.



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