Life Story for the Special Initiative “Living the Coup: Collective Diary of Daily Life in Myanmar” by SEA Junction and Partners.
|Title:||What a Miserable Banking System!|
|Storyteller:||Story 1: Htet Aung (Pseudonym)
Story 2: Tha Pyay Nyo (Pseudonym)
|Date:||Story 1: May 2021
Story2: September 2021
The banking sector collapsed following the coup in February 2021 in Myanmar with experiencing cash shortage, the Central bank’s difficulties in disbursing enough funds to private banks to cover the account holders’ daily needs, and running out of cash in ATMs as people wanted to withdraw their savings, and new requirements about withdrawals. Two stories by different authors about their experiences with the disrupted banking system were received under the “Living the Coup” Special initiative project and are presented below together since they complement each other.
“I realized from this experience, that there will be more upcoming challenges I will have to face under the military coup. The fruits and flowers we consumed under the democracy regime gradually disappear day by day” (Tha Pyay Nyo )
Story 1 by Htet Aung (Pseudonym)
On May 7, 2021, I was one of the people in the long line of a local bank. I woke up at 4:15 AM, and arrived there around 4:45 a.m. The curfew is from 10 PM to 4 AM. The dawn is still dark, and to go out of the house means taking a risk as you can never know where and when you are confronting a military truck and how the soldiers are going to treat you. However, you have no choice and have to rush to the bank to get what you can. Just some small amount of money, no matter how much funds you have in your account.
I thought that I left home early enough to get a place among the first 30 or 50 people in the queue. This thought was totally wrong. When I arrived in front of the bank branch, a group of people were already standing there, so I had to look for the end of the line by walking and walking. It was exactly like the line that you can see in the video footage of long queue for ATMs in Myanmar uploaded by Nikkei Asia at https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=740573396613812 on 11 May 2021.
I estimated about 600 people got there earlier than me. Many took a greater risk than me, by going out during the curfew at 2 a.m. with their own cars, avoiding military patrol trucks, and finally, made it close to the bank branch. They found the nearest places to park their cars and waited inside the car after the curfew time. They all are well-to-do families. This is life in Yangon.
The audience who watched the above video footage may not know when these people came to the banks in Yangon. Nikkei Asia just posted it, without explaining how much the residents in Yangon took the risk every day and how long they have to be patient to get 500,000 MMK (at the time about 317 USD) per person and only 30 persons/day. So, after standing for 5 hours in line, I got an appointment to take my money on June 8, meaning that I must wait for ONE MONTH to get 500,000 MMK from my saving account. What kind of situation could it be? A failed state? Or anything else?
Story 2 by Tha Pyay Nyo (Pseudonym)
I never thought that I would be unhappy by checking the amount of money in my savings account, but this happened to me after the military coup. I could not withdraw money, even for spending, from ATM. This money is the earnings I received from working hard physically and mentally. Because of the military coup, I was unable to withdraw even a single penny from this account. As I had left a small amount of money in my hand, I had no choice but to withdraw some funds as soon as possible by going directly to the bank.
One morning in September 2021, I went to the private bank where I opened my accounts and got a passbook. As soon as I arrived at the bank, seeing many soldiers holding guns in front of the bank made me very worried. Didn’t we read the news about customers who complained to the bank regarding withdrawing money and were arrested by the soldiers a few days ago? Now I was seeing the soldiers who love to make trouble for the people. The banks that used to provide very good customer service became the ones who were transferring either customers or their personal information who complained about service to the soldiers after the military staged the coup.
As soon as I entered the bank, I just found the staff providing customer services inattentively instead of politely. I told them that I wanted to withdraw money from my account. The staff said 1) I have to leave the passbook, 2) it is going to take one week, and 3) the maximum amount I can take out is 200, 000 MMK (about $100). Then she also said I should expect that it could even take more than one week since there was a long queue.
I could not complain about what she said, and then the thing I could request the bank staff was to transfer money from my savings to the account I recently opened in the city where I live. Literally, it was easy and could be done via mobile banking before the coup but I had to go to the office to do this easy task since the internet connection was forcibly cut off by the military.
Actually, I needed more than 200, 000 MMKs urgently. I decided, after coming back from the bank, to withdraw 1 million MMKs with the help of my friend by paying 7% extra on the amount I took out. It was a tough decision I made since I have to pay 7% of the saving I got from working hard. However, I realized from this experience, that there will be more upcoming challenges I have to face under the military coup. The fruits and flowers we consumed under democracy regime gradually disappear day by day.
“Living the Coup: Collective Diary of Daily Life in Myanmar” is a special initiative of SEA Junction in collaboration with Asia Justice Rights (AJAR) to document how people are living in present-day Myanmar and their coping with daily security, economic and health challenges. We are asking for short stories in the form of written, photo essays or art illustration, in Burmese Language (to be later translated into English) or in English. For more background and other stories click here.
SEA Junction, established under the Thai non-profit organization Foundation for Southeast Asia Studies (ForSEA), aims to foster understanding and appreciation of Southeast Asia in all its socio-cultural dimensions- from arts and lifestyles to economy and development. Conveniently located at Room 408 of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center or BACC (across MBK, BTS National Stadium), SEA Junction facilitates public access to knowledge resources and exchanges among students, practitioners and Southeast Asia lovers. For more information see www.seajunction.org, join the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/1693058870976440/ and follow us on twitter and Instagram @seajunction
Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
AJAR is a non-profit organization, based in Jakarta, Indonesia, whose aim is to contribute to the strengthening of human rights and the alleviation of entrenched impunity in the Asia-Pacific region. Its work focuses on countries involved in transition from a context of mass human rights violations to democracy, where it strives to build cultures based on accountability, justice and a willingness to learn from the root causes of human rights violations to help prevent the recurrence of state-sanctioned human rights violations. For more information, see https://asia-ajar.org.