What Is MMK (Myanmar Kyat)?

MMK is the currency abbreviation for the Myanmar kyat (MMK), the currency for Myanmar. The kyat is often presented with the symbol K. Pya coins are very rare, but notes up to 1,000 kyat are commonly used.

Key Takeaways

  • MMK is the currency abbreviation for the Myanmar kyat (MMK), the currency for Myanmar.
  • The kyat is made up of 100 pya, coins that are fairly limited in use across the country. The most common banknotes are K1,000 notes.
  • The first kyat was issued as gold and silver coins until 1889, but this was followed by a half-century of switching between the Indian rupee and the Myanmar kyat until approximately the 1960s.
  • The modern Myanmar kyat was introduced in 1989 without a demonetization of the prior currency and is still in use today.
  • As of April 28, 2021, the official exchange rate of the kyat is $1 = 1,409.28 MMK.

Understanding MMK (Myanmar Kyat)

The kyat (pronounced "chat") is the official currency of Myanmar. It is made up of 100 pya, coins that are fairly limited in use across the country. The most common banknotes in circulation are the K1,000 notes. Other notes include the K5, K10, K20, K50, K100, K200, K500, K5,000, and K10,000.

To get an idea of the cost of living in Myanmar as of 2021, note that the cost of local cuisine ranges from K2,000 to K10,000, and a bottle of beer costs somewhere between K1,000 and K1,500.

History of the Kyat

Myanmar is located in mainland Southeast Asia. In 1989, the ruling military government changed the name of the country to Myanmar, from Burma. However, the adjectival description is still Burmese, not Myanmarese.

The first kyat was issued as gold and silver coins until 1889. But the Indian rupee was established as a national currency when the British conquered the country in 1942. The kyat currency was, once again, introduced to replace the rupee in 1943, but the rupee returned to circulation again until 1952, when the current Myanmar kyat was introduced into the Burmese economy. Within the same year, 1, 5, 25, and 50 pya coins and the 1K note were introduced into the system. In subsequent years, the cost of living kept increasing, and the coins and 1K note were eventually phased out.

In 1963, banks in Myanmar were nationalized with stringent banking laws. Burmese could only hold one account in one bank with each account having not more than a balance of K10,000 per month or K50,000 per year. Account-holders could make minimum withdrawals of K5, however, they were only permitted to make a maximum of two withdrawals per week.

The Kyat and the Black Market

For many years, a strong black market for the new currency forced the government to demonetize several times. In May of 1964, the K50 and K100 notes were demonetized, and in 1985 the 20, 50, and 100 kyat notes were demonetized and no longer legal tender. K25, K35, and K75 were introduced during this time to take the place of the defunct kyat notes.

The last demonetization occurred in 1987, when the government demonetized the 25, 35, and 75 kyat notes after less than two years of issuing them, rendering three-quarters of the country's currency valueless. K45 and K90 bills were issued into the economy, but by then, the kyat was an unreliable currency, and the Burmese turned to gold and jewelry as a medium for savings. The modern Myanmar kyat was introduced in 1989 without a demonetization of the prior currency and is still in use today.

In 2007, fuel subsidies were removed, which led to a steep rise in the cost of basic food commodities. The resulting uprising forced the local exchange rate in the black market to weaken drastically to $1 = K1,300 even though the official exchange rate stood at $1 = K6. The country operated under a fixed exchange rate regime until 2012 when the central bank adopted a managed float for its currency in a bid to weaken and eliminate the black markets. The central bank set the exchange rate then to $1 = K818. As of April 28, 2021, the official exchange rate of the kyat is $1 = 1,409.28 MMK.