Myanmar officials have been negotiating with the Chinese embassy to reopen Chinese bank accounts held by Myanmar traders in the border area of northern Shan state, which were frozen last week over possible links to illegal activities, a local Myanmar administrator from the town of Muse said Tuesday.
Last week, the Shweli branches of the Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China began freezing the accounts of more than 300 clients suspected of laundering money from illegal activities.
The freeze included the accounts of more than 100 Myanmar businesspeople who operate in the 105-mile Muse border trade zone in northern Shan across the Shweli River from southwestern China’s Yunnan province.
A delegation led by Myanmar’s commerce minister Than Myint met with the consulate-general of China on June 15 to negotiate the reopening of the accounts, according to an article in state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Tuesday.
Ministry officials also contacted China’s Communist Party secretary in Shweli and an official from the town’s Foreign Affairs Department to explain why the bank accounts were frozen and to discuss the reopening of the accounts, the report said.
Muse district administrator Kyaw Kyaw Tun, who was present at the meeting, told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Tuesday that Chinese officials gave their Myanmar counterparts a list of 336 bank accounts belonging to Myanmar citizens, that have been frozen.
“We have informed the Chinese police, Foreign Affairs Department, and Chinese banks about it,” he said.
“They [the Chinese] said they did it to combat illegal border activities, such as internet gambling, money laundering, and depositing money from drug deals,” he said.
“We told them to take action against people who are engaging in illegal business activities, but not to close the bank accounts of others who are not involved in them,” Kyaw Kyaw Tun said.
Myanmar traders held an emergency meeting in Muse township on June 17 to discuss the frozen accounts.
Shweli’s deputy mayor said an investigation of the frozen bank accounts is ongoing, but that officials would work to reopen those not associated with criminal activities, The Global New Light of Myanmar report said.
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.