Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why can't Than Shwe open a bank account in Singapore?

Is it just me or does all the hoo-hah over the Burmese junta allegedly "stashing" millions of gas dollars in Singapore bank accounts rather miss the point?

Unlike the US, EU and Australia, Singapore (like other Southeast Asian nations) has a full and active economic and diplomatic relationship with Myanmar.

Singapore's banking regulator may insist that the city-state is not a safehaven for hot money.

But that's largely irrelevant to the Burma cash question because the Singapore government views the junta as a legitimate regime.

Therefore any cash accrued by the generals is, by definition, not considered hot money in Singapore.

So why can't Than Shwe or his fellow Burmese generals just open a bank account with DBS or some private bank and deposit their money there like any other secretive millionaire, with no questions asked?

Photo by deepchi1, courtesy of a creative commons licence.


  1. I can't speak for all banks in Singapore, but from my understanding of the local banks at least, Citizens of Myanmar, North Korea and a few other countries I can't recall off-hand are listed under 'high risk' countries. To open a bank account for citizens of these countries, they would need to provide their passports, valid work permits/employment passes, reason for opening the account, source of funds etc to the bank which is subjected to approval on a case by case basis. For any large transactions involving any bank accounts, it will be monitored and reported to MAS if deemed suspicious by the bank.

    So, not so easy lah.

  2. Thanks for this interesting info. I can understand that the local banks may be very suspicious about random Myanmar citizens opening bank accounts with large wedges of cash.

    But if it was a senior general and/or minister, do you think that the private banking staff of a Singaporean bank would really start asking them where they got their money from?

    It seems a bit unlikely to me. I'm sure they would report it to MAS but in Singapore's eyes, the fact that Than Shwe or some other Myanmar general might have millions of dollars to deposit is not surprising or necessarily that suspicious.