Term : Currency

Updated : June 16, 2019


  • There are several currencies named “Pound”.
  • The most notable is known as the “Sterling Pound”.
  • The British manufactured the “Silver Penny” made out of pure silver. 240 Silver Pennies presumably weighed one pound. Hence, the name “Sterling Pound”.
  • 1 Pound = 20 shillings = 240 pennies
  • Other denominations include (a) farthing (b) half-crown (c) crown (d) guinea.
  • Later, the British went “metric”.
  • 1 “new” Pound = 100 “new” Pence.
  • At one time, the circulation of Pound was tied to the “Gold Reserve”.
  • In our younger days, 1 Pound was equivalent to about 13 Kyats.


  • For some time, the British had the Governor in India.
  • Indian professionals, merchants and laborers worked in Burma.
  • Indian currency of 1 Rupee = 16 Anna = 64 Pice became the currency for pre-war Burma.
  • The Burmese coined “Kyat”, “Pei”, “Paing” for Rupee, Anna and Pice. Other terms include (a) Ta Mu for Two Anna (b) Ta Mutt for Four Anna or quarter of a Rupee (c) Nga Mu — a misnomer — for Four [and not Five] Ta Mu or half a Rupee.
  • Dingha refers to the Silver Coin worth One Rupee.
  • My father told us that he could have a good meal (including Dan Bauk or Barayani) for less than an Anna.
  • Some government employees had 13 Rupees (or less) as their salary, yet they could support their family.
  • The Indian currency was phased out during the early years of Burma’s Independence.
  • One Kyat was initially equivalent to One Rupee.

Japanese Occupation

  • For about three years, the Burmese experienced the Japanese Occupation.
  • Several Japanese forces brought along their printing presses to produce the Japanese currency for use in Burma. However, Not all Japanese notes became usable. The note must be able to “stand up” and to “pick up sand”.
  • Many Burmese have memories about the “Htaung Ma Lei; Thei Kaw”.
  • Some Burmese had to barter goods (e.g. a car tire in exchange for food or other items).
  • When the Occupation ended, all the Notes in circulation was declared void and useless.


  • After Burma’s Independence, the Burmese Government phased out the use of British and Indian currency, and introduced the Burmese currency.
  • For some time, the Burmese Currency was tied to the “Sterling Pound” and/or “Gold Reserve”. There was a limited number of Notes in circulation.
  • The Notes had “Ye Zar” to deter counterfeiting and were guaranteed. Some early ones had the signatures of Sithu U Kaung and U San Lin.
  • The coins in use include (a) One Pya (b) Five Pyas (c) Ten Pyas (d) Twenty five Pyas (e) Fifty Pyas.
  • When we were young, we paid five pyas for simple food items. For example, a 25-pack of “Mayan Yo” would cost 75 Pyas (wholesale). Each pack would be sold for 5 Pyas retail.
  • Mohinga would sell for 15 Pyas (without Ah Kyaw) and 25 Pyas (with Ah Kyaw).
  • We encountered (a) Three Demonetization (with increasing degree of severity) (b) Distribution of non-standard Notes (e.g. 15 Kyats, 35 Kyats, 75 Kyats, 90 Kyats) (c) Replacement of Bogyoke Aung San’s pictures.
  • The degradation of the monetary system and the high cost of living led in part to the 8-8-88 “Ah Yay Taw Pone”.
  • We saw the dramatic change in exchange rates.
  • One Kyat = 4 Bahts (Early days)
  • One Kyat = One Baht (“Baht Taik, Kyat Taik period)
  • One Baht = Four Kyats (effectively reducing the spending power of Kyat sixteen times).
  • One US Dollar = 5 Kyats (Early days)
  • One US Dollar = 1000 Kyats (or more)

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