The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is the largest mainland country in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Laos to the east, Thailand to the southeast, the Andaman Sea to the south, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, Bangladesh and India to the northwest, and China to the northeast. Myanmar is also referred to as Burma. Burma is the more popular and colloquial term while Myanmar is the literary term. The ruling military junta suppressed an uprising and officially changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar in 1989. Myanmar’s economy is largely dependent on their agricultural sector. It is also one of the least developed economies in Southeast Asia.
After three Anglo-Burmese Wars, Burma became a province of India in 1886. The Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India issued Burmese banknotes that were only valid in Burma. In 1942, Japan invaded Burma and established the Burmese Executive Administration. During the Japanese occupation, Japanese Invasion Money or “JIM” rupee notes were circulated. This rupee was decimalized in 1942. A year later, Burma was declared “independent of Japan” but a puppet government still ruled. On January 1944, the puppet government established the Burma State Bank. The Burma State Bank issued the first kyat notes. These notes were also known as the peacock series because they featured a peacock and the Mandalay Palace. When British troops regained Burma in 1945, they reintroduced the rupee and established the Military Administration of Burma.
On January 4, 1948, Burma gained its independence from the British. The Government of Burma issued new rupee notes that featured national occupations to celebrate. In 1952, the Union Bank of Burma was established. The Union Bank took over central banking responsibilities from the Burma Currency Board and adopted the kyat as the national currency of Burma. The word kyat is the Burmese word for silver. One kyat is equivalent to 100 pyas. Early kyat notes had the same design as the previous rupee note series. In 1958, the Union Bank issued redesigned banknotes that featured General Aung San, the father of modern Myanmar, and introduced the 20 and 50 kyat. General Ne Win launched a successful coup against Prime Minister U Nu in 1962 and established the People’s Bank of Burma as the country’s sole bank. The kyat notes issued by the People’s Bank featured portraits of General Aung San in his wartime army days. These notes also bore the coat of arms in Parli. The People’s Bank of Burma changed its name to the Union of Burma Bank (not to be confused with the Union Bank of Burma). The Union of Burma Bank issued notes that were designed by Burmese artists U Aye Myint and Major Aung Than. These notes featured different portraits of General Aung San, cultural artifacts, natural resources, national occupations, and mythical creatures. The Union of Burma Bank also issued odd denominations in 1985. These are the 15 kyat, 35 kyat, 45 kyat, 75 kyat, and 90 kyat. It is said that these odd denominations are due to General Ne Win’s belief in numerology.
After the coup and the renaming of Burma to Myanmar in 1985, the Union of Burma Bank was renamed to the Central Bank of Myanmar. The first series of notes issued by the Central Bank was the Chinthe series in 1990. These notes featured different scenes of Myanmar and the Chinthe, also known as the Burmese King Lion. The bank also introduced the 200 kyat, 500 kyat, and 1,000 kyat in the same year. The 5,000 kyat and 10,000 kyat notes were introduced in 2009 and 2012 respectively to address hyperinflation. In 2020, the Central Bank of Myanmar introduced a new series of banknotes. These notes feature a new portrait of General Aung San in the national dress and gaungbaung (cloth turban).