Paper Money

Myanmar junta issues commemorative note for statue

The ruling junta in the military dictatorship of Myanmar issued new 20,000-kyat bank notes on July 31.

Images courtesy of the Central Bank of Myanmar.

The ruling junta in the military dictatorship of Myanmar issued new 20,000-kyat bank notes on July 31. Statements about the issue say its purpose is to commemorate the completion in the administrative capital of Naypyitaw of a 1,700-ton, 63-foot-tall statue of Maravijaya Buddha sitting on an 18-foot throne.

Government propaganda said that its aims were to “shape Myanmar as a focal point of Theravada Buddhism, ensuring the prosperity of the State, and ensuring peace and prosperity in the world, and the one-year birthday anniversary of Royal White Elephant “Ratha Nandaka which was born on 23rd July 2022.” Buddhism associates white elephants with godliness and royalty.

The issue is limited and examples can be acquired by exchanging old notes of equivalent value at three offices of the Central Bank of Myanmar. The sum of 20,000 kyats is an exceptionally high face value for a note to be used in a country under economic sanctions and where more than 25% of the population lives in poverty. The kyat has been trading on the black market at 3,500 to the dollar.

The light green note measures 150 millimeters by 70 millimeters.

The middle of the face has a picture of the white elephant drawn in a traditional Burmese style. The junta, which came to power in a February 2021 coup d’état and has since been responsible for over 3,800 deaths, claims that the birth of a white elephant is a sign of its legitimacy.

The value of the note is printed in three corners on the face. Serial numbers are printed in the Myanmar language horizontally and in English vertically. The note bears the watermark of the head of the elephant on its left side. There are also 12 short lines printed as a tactile feature for the blind.

The back illustrates the Sagaing and Ayawaddy Bridges over the Irrawaddy River in Mandalay. The numeric denomination is again in three corners and written in English text at the bottom. There is also a gold/green color-shifting security thread.

Radio Free Asia said that the Buddha statue was mocked in secret, viewed as part of the military’s attempts to win respectability through religion, and that civil servants had no choice but to attend the opening ceremony.

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