Tether (USDT)’s Role In Myanmar’s Quest for Political Justice

Myanmar's use of Tether explained

Cryptocurrencies have become increasingly mainstream over the last two years in part thanks to the economic havoc triggered by COVID-19. Cryptocurrency adoption soared during the pandemic as they provide a way for users to transact digitally, quickly, and at a low cost. It is safe to say that digital assets have successfully disrupted the traditional financial world, drawing the attention of not only the average investor but also institutions and governments. A recent government body that has seen the appeal of cryptocurrencies is the National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, a shadow government that has been seeking to overthrow the military regime that seized control over the Union of Myanmar. In December 2021, the National Unity Government of Myanmar, which acts as a parallel ruling party to the military regime currently in power, declared via a Facebook post that Tether (USDT) will officially be used in the country as an official currency. 

The NUG officialized the use of Tether (USDT) stablecoin, despite the disapproval of the Central Bank, which is currently controlled by the military regime. Per the NUG Finance Minister Tin Tun Naing, Tether will be accepted for “domestic use to make it easy and speed up the current trade, services, and payment systems.”

Unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, Tether is a stablecoin that is pegged to the US dollar on a 1:1 ratio and is less volatile in nature than other cryptocurrencies. 

What is happening in Myanmar?

Currently, the military regime has taken over Myanmar. The National Unity Government, which is made up of supporters of imprisoned activist Aung San Suu Kyi, has been actively looking for ways to overthrow the current military regime. Supported by the majority of the population, the NUG aims to raise $1 billion through government-issued bonds to fund their democratic movement. At the time of writing, they have successfully raised approximately $9.5 million thanks to the sale of “Spring Revolution Special Treasury Bonds.” With Tether, the NUG hopes to increase transaction privacy, security, and efficiency. But most importantly, with a digital way to transact that does not rely on any centralized banks to go through and cannot be stopped that easily by the military in control of the region, the adoption of Tether by the NUG may be a strategic move and an important one in their quest to restore power to the people. For the time being, the Central Bank of Myanmar, which has advised against the use of cryptocurrencies and deems it to be illegal, is controlled by the military regime. 

Crypto for basic human rights 

By adopting Tether as an official currency and by using it instead of the Myanmar kyat, NUG now has a way to finance the region’s democratic movement and transact in a more private way. Privacy is of utmost concern at the moment, as Myanmar has undergone mass protests and mass killings since the military coup that occurred a year ago. 

Despite the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won during the elections by a landslide, the military regime took over by force and imprisoned her under the pretext that she committed numerous crimes involving fraud and corruption. 

Now, in an ongoing effort to overturn a military regime that has instilled a sense of distrust among the population, Tether (USDT) has been adopted by the shadow government as a bold move. 

Stability and strategy with Tether

Unlike other cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin, the largest digital currency by market capitalization, USDT is deemed a centralized cryptocurrency. It is controlled by Tether. In case of hacks and malpractice, the company has the full right to temporarily freeze targeted accounts. In a certain way, the centralized nature of USDT adds to the fact that it is safer than other cryptocurrencies. Lost amounts could be re-issued by the firm upon request and if deemed necessary by the latter.

The addition of Tether makes sense for the NUG, with the finance minister of the National Unity Government vouching for the officialization of the stablecoin. He asserted that Tether would enable transactions to be conducted speedily and efficiently. 

Furthermore, officializing Tether may also be a strategic move. Among all cryptocurrencies, USDT is a safer choice, seeing as it is pegged to the US dollar on a 1:1 ratio. This makes USDT less volatile than its counterparts. The stablecoin can also be easily exchanged with other cryptocurrencies. Leveraging USDT to purchase other cryptocurrencies is already a common practice in many parts of Asia. As USDT’s value is already more than that of the Myanmar Khat and crypto is increasingly touted as a hedge against inflation, the National Unity Government of Myanmar will easily be able to receive funds globally for humanitarian relief purposes. It will also be able to transact digitally without the fear of being persecuted by the military regime.

Perhaps Tether can be regarded as NUG’s weapon of choice to instill more stability during these times of conflict. 

Financial freedom with crypto

With governments worldwide gravitating towards the adoption of cryptocurrencies, Myanmar’s bold move is an indication that digital assets are here to stay. Fulfilling the needs of the unbanked and the underbanked, digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum point to a future where digital assets will inevitably be part of an average person’s financial portfolio. The shift to crypto has already begun and has already taken over the traditional finance industry by storm.

To put things into perspective, a year in crypto is riddled with many achievements and discoveries. In 2021, the cryptocurrency industry reached an important milestone, as waves of financial institutions on end began to realize the potential of Bitcoin and other digital assets. This year, it seems as though governments are slowly waking up to the idea that cryptocurrencies are here to stay and that their full potential has yet to be uncovered. 

The revolution has certainly begun as we’ve witnessed a shift in perspective sweeping over different governments. It begins with El Salvador and extends to the institutional level, where different financial behemoths such as JP Morgan have publicly recognized the potential of crypto. Now, with Myanmar’s revolution at the political level underway, it seems as though the adoption of Tether has unwittingly facilitated the global financial revolution and shift that is currently happening. The best is yet to come.

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