Postcard from Myanmar - October 2015

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Summary: We have distilled the latest Myanmar news into this ‘speed read’. Including an election update, ceasefire agreement news, AML guidelines and more.

Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly Myanmar update where we distill the latest Myanmar news into the the key points that you need to know.

Elections Update

8 November 2015 will mark the most democratic General Elections that Myanmar has seen since the military seized power in 1962. Our infographic highlights the key milestones in Myanmar’s recent history, its economic and political reforms, and what the country requires for the next stage of its development.

91 political parties and over 6,000 candidates have registered for the General Elections and it is estimated that there are 35 million eligible voters in the country. Election campaigns have been in full swing since 8 September 2015 and will end two days before the election.

We will be publishing a special edition of the Myanmar Postcard when the elections conclude in November to provide updates and analysis of the election.

  • General Elections to go ahead on 8 November 2015 despite talks of delay.

    The Union Election Commission (the UEC) confirmed on 13 October 2015 that the General Elections are to go ahead on 8 November 2015 as scheduled. The UEC had earlier gathered some of the main political parties to consider postponement citing the recent natural disasters and the lack of peace and stability in some areas. It was reported that the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposed the postponement while the ruling military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) supported the idea of postponement.

  • Advance voting by overseas Myanmar citizens completed.

    Between 13 October 2015 and 23 October 2015, advance voting by overseas Myanmar nationals took place at various Myanmar embassies and consulates around the world. A number of problems encountered during the process (including incomplete voter lists, stations not having complete sets of ballot papers for voters and an onslaught of voters overwhelming polling staff) meant that some voters were unable to cast their ballots. The highest numbers of complaints were made in Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo. While there have been discussions around the extension of the 23 October 2015 deadline for overseas voters, an extension has not been confirmed at the time of writing.

Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed

The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (the NCA), which had been under negotiation since August 2011, was finally signed on 15 October 2015 between the Myanmar government and eight armed ethnic groups. The signing of the NCA was witnessed by representatives from the European Union, the United Nations and diplomats. President Thein Sein described the NCA as a “historic gift” to the future generations.

The eight groups that took part in the signing are:

  1. Karen National Union (KNU), which has the longest-running conflict with the Myanmar military spanning nearly 70 years;
  2. Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA);
  3. Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council (KNU/KNLA-PC);
  4. Arakan Liberation Party;
  5. Chin National Front (CNF);
  6. Pa-O National Liberation Organisation (PNLO);
  7. All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF); and
  8. Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS/Shan State Army-South (SSA-S)).

Seven out of the 15 armed groups that were invited to sign the NCA declined to sign whereas three other groups (the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Arakan Army) were excluded due to ongoing fighting with government troops.

Joint committees to prevent armed clashes and facilitate political dialogue have also been formed in accordance with the NCA. Under the NCA political dialogue between the parties is scheduled to commence 90 days from the signing of the NCA.

Central Bank of Myanmar releases AML guidelines

The Central Bank of Myanmar (the CBM) has issued a Directive on Customer Due Diligence for banks and financial institutions licensed and supervised by the CBM. The CBM expects all banks to develop effective frameworks and practices to manage their risks of money-laundering and terrorist financing.

Banks are required to carry out customer due diligence to identify each customer, new and existing, including walk-in customers and ongoing customer due diligence for all business relations and transactions. Additional due diligence is required on high-risk customers, including “politically exposed” persons.

Read the translation of the directive.

Central Bank of Myanmar announces revocation of foreign currency exchange licences

The CBM announced that it would revoke certain Foreign Exchange Acceptor and Holder Licences with effect from 19 October 2015 in a bid to counter dollarisation. The CBM aims to: (1) promote the weakening kyat which has depreciated by about 25% against the US$ this year as a result of a strengthening US$ and Myanmar’s widening budget deficit; and (2) reduce the use of cash by encouraging domestic debit cards and credit cards, internal payment cards and on-line payment system.

The CBM’s notice instructed businesses in sectors other than banking or money changing, including hotels, travel agencies, restaurants, duty free shops, airlines, hospitals, freight forwarders, telecom enterprises, media, apartments, supermarkets, souvenir shops, gold clubs, and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, to return their licences to the CBM by 30 November 2015.

Launch of the EU-Myanmar trade programme

A three-year trade development program (TDP) between the European Union and Myanmar was launched on 6 October 2015 to help both the public and private sectors seize new trading opportunities and generate sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Myanmar.

The TDP will be implemented by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce, and is set to focus on: (1) fisheries; and (2) beans and pulses – two sectors with the strongest potential for exporting to the EU. The program aims to, amongst other things, develop a consumer protection agreement, simplify customs procedures and set up an EU market information centre.

Launch of the Myanmar Statistical Information Service (MMSIS) database

The Myanmar government has introduced a new online statistics portal the Myanmar Information System (MMSIS) which was created by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) under the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. The database aggregates information relating to trade, investment, demographics and national income which is derived from the CSO, the Myanmar National Statistic System (NSS) and private sector sources.

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