Myanmar workers in Malaysia can transmit money home using the Ayeyarwady Bank from February 10, a bank spokesperson said last week.
“We have linked up with Q-Remit, a Malaysian company that is licensed to transmit money abroad,” said U Than Zaw, the managing director of Ayeyarwady Bank.
“We will maintain counters there with staff who can read and write in both Myanmar and English,” he said.
Myanmar’s Central Bank allowed four private banks: Ayeyarwady, Asia Green Development (AGD), Cooperative (CB) and Kanbawza to offer international money transfers from January 1.
He said the bank would maintain two counters in Q-Remit branches in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, which host the largest Myanmar populations.
The company will charge 12 ringgit (about US$3.97) for transfers of up to 1500 ringgit ($497), 15 ringgit ($4.97) for 1500-3000 ringgit ($497-$993) and 20 ringgit ($6.62) for 3000-6000 ringgit ($993-1987), he said.
“A total of 11 workers have transmitted money to Myanmar from the first day we offered the service. Most of them transmitted more than 1000 ringgit [$331] but one of them sent 6000 ringgit [$1987] to Kalay township [Sagaing Region],” he said.
He said branches in Chin and Shan states were the most popular end destination for transfers so far.
U Than Zaw said the exchange rates from ringgit to US dollars was calculated and released by Malaysia’s May Bank, and then converted to kyats according to the daily exchange rate at the Thein Byu exchange counters in Yangon.
“Workers can see on their receipt how much money their family will receive in Myanmar,” he said.
Ko Nyan Sint, a factory worker in Malaysia, said overseas workers would continue to use the illegal hundi remittance network for transfers of less than 1000 ringgit.
The hundi network is an illegal web of businesspeople around the world that allows people to transfer money without paying any tax. The network is extensively utilised by Myanmar workers abroad who remit money back to their families. Hundi agents do not charge fees as such but offer a slightly lower exchange rate than the going market figure.
“If we transmit less then 1000 ringgit then we have to pay 12 ringgit, which is more expensive than using the hundi agents,” he said.
“But if we’re planning to send more than 1000 ringgit then it’s worthwhile using the bank,” he said.
However, he said the banks offered a level of safety with their remittances that was missing from the hundi network. But he said it would take time to convince all overseas Myanmar to use the legal channels.
U Than Zaw said 10,000 ringgit ($3311) had been transferred to Myanmar since February 10 but added that the payments can only go one way – families in Myanmar cannot send money to workers in Malaysia yet.
CB managing director U Phey Myint said the company was preparing to open a remittance branch at Singapore’s Peninsula Shopping Mall, which is a hub of Myanmar’s expatriate community in the city.
“We will start during March but there has been some delays while we negotiate with other banks. I have heard that Ayeyarwady Bank has already started remittance services but I’ve not heard of others yet,” he said.
U Aung Kyaw Myo, deputy managing director of Kanbawza Bank, said: “We need more time to choose a correspondent bank to work with.”
“But we expect that we will begin offering services in Thailand in late April or the first week of May so that Myanmar working in Thailand can easily and safely transfer money home,” he said.