Myanmar government-in-exile turns to digital currencies as last resort against ruling junta


Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) has sent a passionate call to the United States Federal Reserve to grant their request to use funds frozen in the United States as reserves for a new digital currency. The NUG was overthrown in a coup in 2021, and many of its members fled overseas.

Tin Tun Naing, former Minister of Planning, Finance and Industry, spoke to Bloomberg on Tuesday, listing the NUG’s demands. Naing conceded the request is long, but would be essential to restoring government.

“We just need the American blessing that allows us to use the frozen money virtually,” he said. “We are fully aware that the United States will not be releasing it for the foreseeable future, but we are aiming to use these frozen assets virtually.”

Naing revealed that accessing the funds would help build a foreign exchange reserve for the future NUG Central Bank. He added that the digital currency will help the government-in-exile wrest power from the ruling government and support the “revolutionary efforts” of the NUG.

Noting that a direct request for funds from the United States will be difficult, Naing hopes that using the funds as reserves will be the best alternative. The Federal Bank of New York froze the funds in question immediately after a section of the nation’s armed forces seized power.

Funds from Myanmar amount to several billion and are held in Singapore, Japan and Thailand. It remains unclear whether the central banks of these countries will be willing to sell the assets to the NUG. The International Monetary Organization and the World Bank have said the exact details of Myanmar’s foreign exchange reserves are unclear at this time.

The United States can get their wish, but there is still a mountain to climb

It is possible that the US Federal Reserve will grant the request of the exiled opposition, especially with the Venezuelan precedent set. The US government has given Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido access to previously frozen accounts about incumbent Nicolas Maduro.

Assuming the call to use the funds as reserves for the digital currency is granted, there is still a steep climb that the NUG must overcome. The junta that took power shows little or no sign of surrender despite international pressure. The country’s currency has fallen nearly 40% against the dollar since the reversal, and multinationals like Total and Chevron have left the country after decades of operation.

However, the NUG has shown ingenuity in dealing with issues in the past. In December 2021, he announced that he would recognize support for Tether as a currency to support his fundraising campaign to return to power.

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