PHNOM PENH, June 15 (Xinhua) -- Claims by Facebook users that financial institutions in Cambodia have refused to accept U.S. banknotes with even minor blemishes have prompted the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) to issue a response, the Khmer Times reported on Wednesday.
The claims began circulating on the social media website last week when users reported banks and micro-finance institutions had rejected U.S. dollar bills that displayed small circular stamps.
Chea Serey, director general of NBC, said the National Bank had instructed financial institutions to be careful in accepting ink-stained banknotes for fear they may come from burglarized ATM machines.
She explained that if an ATM had been opened by force, a special ink would spill over the notes, making it easier for law enforcement officers to identify the stolen cash. However, a small stamp on banknotes was never mentioned, although she did admit that some bank staff may have been overzealous in examining the bills, leading to the present social media controversy.
"NBC has, so far, been facilitating cash transactions, including stamped notes, for our customers and banking institutions, who have U.S. dollar bank accounts with us," Chea Serey was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
"I want to clarify to the public that NBC is not responsible for U.S. dollar banknotes, but we are responsible for Khmer riel banknotes, because we print them and therefore are responsible for their quality. People are using U.S. dollars on their own accord and must therefore be responsible for it," she added.
At Acleda Bank, where about 86 percent of currency transactions are handled in U.S. dollars, So Phonnary, vice president of the banking institution, said that the case of rejecting imperfect bills was relatively normal.
"Our bank has a principle to carefully check the quality and condition of the U.S. dollar before we accept it," she said.
"If the dollar gets too stained and torn, how can we accept it? But if the dollar gets just little stained or a little seal, it is OK to accept. It depends on the dollars' obvious quality and condition," she added.
The U.S. dollar was introduced to the Cambodian economy by way of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia during their peacekeeping operations in 1993. In September last year, the National Bank set out strategies to give the Khmer riel a boost and reduce dollarization, which represents about 80 percent of currency circulated in the country.