China freezes 1,000 bank accounts

Trucks at Muse 105-mile trade camp in Shan State. (Photo-Tun Nay Hlaing)

Transactions in Muse are becoming difficult as Chinese banks have frozen over 1,000 bank accounts with estimated deposits of Ks40 billion belonging to Burmese traders.

“They started freezing our bank accounts on June 14. Most were locked the next day,” said a trader.

Although Chinese banks have blocked bank accounts in the past, it has never been done on such a large scale before. 

“They freeze the bank accounts of exporters and importers. For instance, if we transfer money to buy goods, the Chinese trader, who accepts the transfer, is also banned so we cannot issue the goods. We heard that the authorities froze the bank accounts linked with internet gambling and smuggled goods. Now more accounts are frozen. Previously, they only froze accounts which are associated with bean, rice, sugar and maize exporters or money changers. Now the importers who open accounts at Chinese banks to buy goods are included in the banned list. Some have opened their accounts for medical treatment,” said a trader from Muse.

Normally the Chinese banks can settle a bank account within six months if it is frozen. However, some can be frozen for years. Muse accounts for about 70 per cent of total border trade and the government should prevent financial loss for its traders, business representatives said.

“It mostly happens when we use illegal money transfers in China. Both governments need to negotiate officially permitting exports from Myanmar. The Chinese didn’t freeze the bank accounts of traders from other countries. They are only doing it to us. Many of us use illegal money transfers as they are cheaper than transfer services approved by the Chinese. The bank accounts frozen by the Chinese are often of money earned legally,” said a trader.

Traders say they will ask the government to make money transfer services official to protect them against Chinese government action and to register all exports to avoid seizures.