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Myanmar's junta arrests dozens in bid to stabilise currency

Myanmar's junta is cracking down on gold and foreign exchange traders and agents selling foreign real estate, with 35 arrests announced in the last two days as part of efforts to
Last Updated : 04 June 2024, 05:23 IST
Last Updated : 04 June 2024, 05:23 IST

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Myanmar's junta is cracking down on gold and foreign exchange traders and agents selling foreign real estate, with 35 arrests announced in the last two days as part of efforts to stabilise its rapidly depreciating currency.

State media said these include five people charged with illegally selling condominium units in Thailand and 14 people arrested for allegedly destabilising the foreign currency exchange rate.

The kyat currency hit a record low last week, plummeting to around 4,500 per dollar on the black market, according to five foreign exchange traders.

Black market rates for the kyat have for years been significantly higher than the reference rate of Myanmar's central bank, currently set at 2,100 kyat per dollar.

"The government is working towards the stability of the country and the rule of law," the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said on Tuesday, carrying photographs of over a dozen suspects.

"Security organisations have taken action against business people engaged in speculation to hinder the country's economic development," it said.

Another 21 people have been arrested for allegedly destabilising gold prices, the newspaper reported on Monday.

The impoverished Southeast Asian country of about 55 million people has been in political and economic turmoil since a 2021 coup when the military ousted an elected civilian government after a decade of tentative democracy and economic reform.

Myanmar's economy, already fragile after decades of military rule and the pandemic, has wilted since the coup, with foreign investment drying up, exacerbated by western sanctions.

Poverty rates have almost doubled from 24.8 percent in 2017 to 49.7 percent in 2023, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

The shadow National Unity Government (NUG), comprising former lawmakers and other junta opponents, said the military government has printed large volumes of currency since taking power and ramped up military spending, exacerbating the country's economic problems.

A junta spokesman did not respond to a call from Reuters seeking comment.

"We understand that they are continuing to print kyat," NUG finance minister Tin Tun Naing said at an online press conference on Monday.

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Published 04 June 2024, 05:23 IST

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