What’s at Wazi?

My previous post mentioned in passing the Myanmar government’s security printing works (SPW Myanmar) at Wazi, where bank notes, postage stamps and revenues are printed. Time was when the location of Wazi was a state secret, but not any more, thanks to Google Earth. To find it, go to Chauk (in Magwe Division), head up the river branch to the north west, and two bends up you’ll find it, a rectangular compound just above Lan Ywar township, connected by road to Lan Ywar air strip. The last time I snapped a Google Earth image of Wazi was in 2007, but not much appears to have changed, though the white area with blue roofs outside the perimeter at the left is a more recent addition.


Since the Referendum issue of December 1973 all Burma and Myanmar stamps have been lithographed or photogravured in house at Wazi. Stamps are despatched from the works in nice fat packets of 50 sheets, the majority of issues at 50 stamps per sheet. The packets are folded out of sheets of stout security paper, often with metallic speckles, and a “window” is cut diagonally across one corner, to enable sheets to be counted before opening. The flaps are sealed by a typographed label which is tied each side to the packet by a circular hand stamp in violet, inscribed “SECURITY PRINTING WORKS” around an “S”, all in English.

The labels are all similar, with only minor variations. Each bears the SPW logo in a pleasing engine turned style. (Click images for slide show.)

Each label spells out the number of sheets, the number of stamps per sheet, the value per stamp and the total value, followed by a rubric exhorting postal staff to count the sheets and return the packet unopened if any discrepancy is found. On the reverse a hand stamp provides a space for the packet number and the pencilled signatures of the two staff who counted the sheets before sealing the packet.

Is there another postal administration that still prints all its own stamps? The US Bureau of Engraving and Printing closed its stamp production in 2005 after an illustrious 111 year history. It’s much to be hoped that the incoming Myanmar administration will not be tempted or bribed into outsourcing production to some dreadful wallpaper agency such as IGPC. Myanmar’s stamps, whatever their limitations, are distinctive and locally relevant, and the issuing policy is conservatively modest. Myanmar’s stamps are printed to be used, and they remain the predominant means of paying postage. Long may things stay that way!