KBZ Pay users and vendors frustrated by new Central Bank rules

KBZ Pay users and vendors frustrated by new Central Bank rules

Ma Khine Swe, 37, frowns after looking at her phone screen from her home in Bangkok, Thailand. She wasn’t able to transfer 900,000 Kyat ($420 USD) to her sister in Yangon using her KBZ Pay account that she opened more than two years ago in Burma to allow her to send money to her family. 

The junta’s Central Bank of Myanmar has been closing down KBZ Pay accounts without detailed user information. According to others using KBZ Pay, many accounts have been closed since the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) issued new restrictions on who can use mobile payment services. 

“KBZ Pay is only allowed to be used if the user’s NRC [National Registration Card] number and the SIM [phone] card registration are the same,” a man in Yangon said. 

“My NRC number that is used in SIM card registration and K-Pay account are the same. But my account was shut down and there is no clue of how I can get back my money. I called the KBZ call center. It told me to send an email to CBM. I asked if my money would be back again, but the operator said didn’t know exactly,” another told DVB. 

“I complained to the CBM [Central Bank of Myanmar] on September 21 [and asked] why my account was closed even though [it meets] with all the rules. But still I haven’t received any feedback,” a man said. 

A shop owner in Yangon said: “We are not [accepting] K-Pay anymore. One of our accounts that we were using for our business was not able to be used although we updated all the information. When we asked the KBZ bank, it said it will take a look at it. It hurts [my business].”

At a junta press conference in Naypyidaw on Sept. 22, Zaw Min Tun said suspension of accounts is to “prevent terrorism.” He said charges under the Counter-Terrorism Act will be brought against people using mobile money to fund resistance groups. This carries a maximum penalty of death. 

“First, they restricted Wave Money,” a source close to the National Unity Government (NUG) said. “They made these [new rules] so that people would not donate [to the] NUG, CRPH and PDF.”

Introduced by Kanbawza (KBZ) Bank in 2018, KBZ pay or “K-Pay” has more than five million users. More than 280,000 merchants and agents across Burma offer the service. 

Following the 2021 coup, KBZ has been criticized for freezing the accounts of Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) supporters, and those involved in the Spring Revolution against military rule. KBZ Pay and Wave Pay are the most popular mobile money services in Burma. Other services include OK Dollar, AYA Pay, CB Pay, Citizen Pay, MPT Pay, True Money, Easy Pay, and One Pay.