Days before coup, IMF sent Myanmar $US350m

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week sent $US350 million ($A460 million) in cash to the Myanmar government, part of a no-strings-attached emergency aid package to help the country battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Days later, military leaders seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected officials, in what the US State Department on Tuesday said constituted a coup.

There appears to be little the IMF can do to claw back the funds, which were part of COVID-19 financing programs with almost no conditions approved by the IMF board on January 13, sources familiar with the payments said.

"We are following the unfolding developments closely," an IMF spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday, confirming the payment.

"We are deeply concerned about the impact of events on the economy and on the people of Myanmar."

US President Joe Biden has threatened new sanctions against the generals.

The United States is the dominant shareholder in the IMF, which has provided Myanmar with $US700 million ($A919 million) in emergency coronavirus financing over the past seven months, including last week's payment.

The Fund said in a statement on January 13 the money would help Myanmar meet "urgent balance-of-payments needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic ... while supporting affected sectors and vulnerable groups."

Unlike the IMF's regular financing programs, which disburse funds in smaller increments as performance benchmarks are met for agreed policy reforms, coronavirus emergency aid has been sent quickly, often all at once.

"It's not a program that was negotiated, there isn't conditionality and there aren't forward-looking reviews with disbursements tied to those reviews," Stephanie Segal, a former IMF economist and US Treasury official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said.

"I'm not aware of any precedent where money that's been approved by the IMF board can be recalled," Segal said.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis last year, the IMF has provided emergency financing to 80 countries.

The IMF's counterpart in Myanmar is the Central Bank of Myanmar, and the source expressed hope it can maintain its independence from the country's finance ministry.

On Tuesday, the ruling Myanmar military appointed Than Nyein as the country's new central bank governor, reinstating him to a post he had held between 2007-2013, during the rule of the last junta.