Chinese authorities have frozen seven bank accounts owned by Myanmar traders who do business along the border in northern Shan state, claiming that the funds they contain are linked to illegal gambling activities, a Myanmar government official said Monday.
The banks began freezing the accounts of businesspeople who operate in the 105-mile Muse border trade zone across the Shweli River from southwestern China’s Yunnan province on March 23, blocking deposits worth more than an estimated 200 million kyats (U.S. $148,300), said Yan Naing Tin, director general of the Department of Trade.
Authorities from the 105-mile trade zone and representatives from the Chinese side discussed the issue on Monday, he said.
“We know that these accounts are watched by Chinese authorities and are considered to be linked to gambling activities,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “They are not totally frozen. Authorities from both sides are still talking.”
Last June, three Chinese banks with local branches in Myanmar’s border area froze 132 bank accounts owned by Myanmar businesspeople who traded in the area, claiming that their funds were linked to illegal activities such as smuggling, gambling, and drug dealing.
At the time, local residents contended that the Shweli branches of the Agricultural Bank of China, the China Construction Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China had frozen about 1,000 accounts.
Without warning, Chinese authorities blocked deposits worth an estimated 40 billion kyats (U.S. $28.8 million), making it difficult, if not impossible, to do business, the traders said.
Despite days of negotiations between Myanmar and Chinese officials and diplomats to unfreeze the assets, more than 100 Myanmar traders and residents in the border town of Muse publicly protested against Chinese authorities, demanding the immediate reopening of their bank accounts.
The banks then reopened the accounts two weeks after the negotiations.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.