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Aeon shopping malls to stop giving small dollars in change

Sok Chan and Pamela Corda / Khmer Times Share:
Aeon 1 mall is banning change in small-dollar denominations from Aug 1. KT/Pann Rachana

All Aeon malls will only give change from $1, $5 and $10 notes in riels from Saturday.

A sign added that the shopping centre will continue to accept US dollars from customers until further notice.

Sin Pysey, sales general manager and store manager of Aeon (Cambodia) Co Ltd, told Khmer Times small US dollar notes have a lack of liquidity.

“Some customers are demanding the US dollar note, but we lack enough of them. If we have a small US dollar note, we will give it to a customer, but if we do not have any we will ask for understanding from customers and give change in riels,” he said.

The National Bank of Cambodia’s Director-General Chea Serey posted on her Facebook site yesterday that Aeon Mall is still accepting small US dollar notes, but if they do not have any for change, she cannot force them to provide the notes.

“The important thing is that they can only exchange the bank note they are holding. We all together should support the use of Khmer riel widely,” she added.

Serey added that article 64 of the Law on the Organisation and Function of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) stated that any person who does not accept payment in currency that is legal tender in the Kingdom shall be liable for a fine of 100 times the amount of the payment.

“In general, Japan has always supported the riel through helping study research into its use in Cambodia via the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The Japanese embassy in Phnom Penh only accepts riels when people pay for a visa and  price tags were in riels in the first supermarket in Cambodia,” Serey pointed out.

David Van, a Cambodian entrepreneur, told Khmer Times that NBC’s decision of phasing out smaller US dollar notes seems to be a gradual but necessary move towards gradual de-dollarisation and encouraging further usage of riels.

“When the deadline passes, probably more people will use mobile banking apps provided by banks which saves the time and cost of handling cash for banks and merchants alike,” he said.

In late May, the NBC asked commercial banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs) to send it the smallest US dollar banknotes because it considers them difficult to manage and “there is little demand for them”.

The NBC gave a three-month deadline (June 1 to Aug 31) for all commercial banks and MFIs to collect $1, $2 and $5 bills so it can transport them to a foreign country. There will be no service charge during this period.

The banks’ regulator said after Aug 31, the NBC will transfer the cost of exporting the notes to the commercial banks and MFIs. It added there will be no charge for accepting $10 notes and it will continue discussing with banks and MFIs to determine the exact date to stop accepting the small US dollar banknotes completely from commercial banks and MFIs.

“Please note that this measure does not ban any trafficking of these small US dollar banknotes of $1, $2, and $5 in the market,” the NBC stressed.

PRASAC’s executive vice-president, Say Sony, told Khmer Times that his MFI has seen a drop in the use of small US dollar notes. “We are still receiving the small banknotes in everyday transactions but note that it is reducing. It has been declining. On July 2, we collected about $1.2 million but on July 24 we collected only $272,000,” Sony added.

“We always transfer banknotes collected to NBC every week and we don’t trace the amount collected by branches so we don’t have this data, but as of now we have only $272,000 of these banknotes,” he added. “We don’t see any problem related to this collection because we can replace them with our riel banknotes,” he added.

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