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Myanmar's liberalization of banking sector attracts more foreign bankers engagement

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YANGON, March 21 (Xinhua) -- A famous Thai bank, the Kasikorn Bank, is seeking to open a branch bank in Myanmar by August this year and about 150 skilled bank staff are being sent to the country in preparation for the move.

Myanmar version will be added to the ATM machine of the bank along with English version to facilitate banking operation.

The bank is mainly aimed at offering services for the run of planned special economic zone such as the Thai-invested Dawei deep sea-port in southern Tanintharyi region..

Earlier, the Exim Bank of Thailand and the Singapore-based United Overseas Bank (UOB) had opened representative offices in Myanmar in a preparatory move to open their branch banks in Myanmar, according to the Voice Weekly Monday.

In a negotiation made between the Thai commerce ministry delegation and its Myanmar counterpart in Nay Pyi Taw in January this year, the two sides reached a consensus for Thai banks to jointly operate with two Myanmar foreign exchange banks in payment settlement to boost trade flow between the two countries.

The two Myanmar state banks are Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank and Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank.

In case of payment in U.S. dollar, banks of the two countries will inter-link and have it settled, while according to the agreement of Ayeyawaddy-Chaophraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), the two sides will use their own currencies.

The ACMECS comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Currently, transaction in border trade between Myanmar and Thailand is done using Thai Baht and Myanmar Kyat.

Border trade department officials revealed that the volume of illegal trade is three or four times more than legal trade, urging for curbing such phenomena.

In border trading with neighboring China and India, Myanmar not only uses in-cash payment system but also uses settlement through banks.

Meanwhile, the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam ( BIDV) opened a representative office in Yangon in April 2010, prompting more Vietnamese bankers to seek more investment opportunities in and cooperation with Myanmar.

Moreover, two unidentified Indonesian banks are also planning to open offices in Myanmar to help promote bilateral trade relations between Indonesia and Myanmar.

As part of their efforts to boost bilateral economic and trade cooperation, Myanmar and Indonesia have sought direct trade link and direct banking transaction.

Due to liberalization of the banking sector in Myanmar, the number of private banks has increased dramatically, reaching 19 including four newly-opened ones -- Asia Green, Myanma Apex Bank, United Amera and Ayeyarwaddy which have begun services in Nay Pyi Taw since July 2010 one after another.

These banks are respectively owned by four giant entrepreneurs - - U Tay Za (Htoo trading company group), U Zaw Zaw (Max Myanmar Co. Ltd), U Nay Aung (IGE) and U Chit Khine ( Ayedin Co. Ltd).

The four new private banks have planned to open 50 branch banks each across Myanmar totalling 200 after they started their business in Nay Pyi Taw.

The addition of the 200 branch banks of the four new banks in 2011 has brought the total number of private branch banks in the country to 440.

Previously, there were 15 private banks with 240 branch banks in operation in Myanmar before the four new banks came into being, 13 of which are located in the former capital city of Yangon.

Private banks were once nationalized in Myanmar in 1963 during the previous government but after the country started to adopt the market-oriented economic system in late 1988, private banks were allowed to operate again since 1992.

There are also four state banks in addition to the private ones in Myanmar which are all governed by the government's Central Bank.

Meanwhile, under a framework agreement between the Myanmar Port Authority and the Italian-Thai Development Public Company signed in Nay Pyi Taw in November 2010, Myanmar and Thailand will formally start a deep seaport project by October this year which also covers the projects of industrial zone, road and rail link to Thailand in Myanmar's southern Tanintharyi region.

Moreover, the Ministry of Finance and Revenue of Myanmar and the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China signed some loan agreements in January this year including the one on renminbi financing for mutual beneficial cooperation, a master facility agreement and the buyer credit loan agreement for Nay Pyi Taw international Airport project-2 between the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and the Chinese bank.

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