The blogger Niknayman had written a blog post about the withdrawal of newly-replaced currency notes such as “25 Kyats” “35 Kyats” and “75 Kyats” in 1987, which later became a reason for the 1988 protests to begin.
On September 5, 1987, under the regime of General Ne Win, (U) Sein Lwin, The Secretary of Union Council signed an order that dissolved the bills issued by The Bank of the Union of Myanmar, which are: 25 Kyats, 35 Kyats, and 75 Kyats.
That September 5th was a Saturday. The time when Myanma Radio announced the withdrawal of the bills was at 11am. Since it was a Saturday, the people were out on the streets to visit places, friends or to go shopping and the people who had been preparing hastily to go out all froze in place when the news was announced on the radio. Within a couple of hours, everyone just stopped. The streets became empty, and it was as if some terrible fate had fallen.
After the withdrawl of those currency bills, the new currency bills of 45 Kyats and 90 Kyats were released. However, the government made no motion of exchanging the bills that had been abolished.
The new currency bills (45 Ks. and 90 Ks.) were divisible by 9, and that no. 9 is considered lucky for General Ne Win. Also, the pictures of Sayar San and Thakhin Phoe Hla Gyi (two Burmese revolutionists during the colonial era) had been placed on the bills, instead of pictures of General Aung San (whose pictures had been on all 3 abolished bills).
Myanmar Kyat. Picture from the Flickr page of shnnn
Niknayman wrote about the plight of people and the citizens:
The poor citizens, middle-class citizens, government workers, and private companies suffered a great loss because of this currency abolishment while the people and the families who were closely associated with the government and the families of the ministries were notified about this secretly, so they went ahead to exchange their cash money with gold and jewels, and also went ahead and bought rice, cooking oil and cooking necessities and stored them. It was only the ordinary citizens of the country who had to suffer from the affects of this currency withdrawal.
Young students, who came (to Yangon) from all around the country and lived in dormitories, faced a blockade of financial aid from their parents, and faced difficulties in paying tuition fees and living expanses. The eradication of currency bills without a solid explanation was just like robbing from the people created many problems for the people and also for the students. These reasons were why the people and the students were highly dissatisfied with General Ne Win's regime, and participated enthusiastically in 1988 Revolution.
The quotes mentioned in the post are translations done by the author. The original quotes are written in Burmese language.