Last month, the Bank of Thailand allowed the country’s largest Bitcoin exchange site to resume operations. Bitcoin.co.th was forced to shut down in August last year, after Bank of Thailand ruled that the using and trading of cryptocurrencies was illegal. In February this year, the exchange was allowed to start up again, when Bank of Thailand suddenly changed their opinion and stated that Bitcoin was legal again. At least, that’s what Bitcoin.co.th thought.
In reality, the exchange got hold of a letter of the Bank of Thailand. The letter stated that bitcoin exchange operations do not fall under the scope of Finance Ministry regulations, unless foreign currencies are also offered for exchange. Bitcoin.co.th only offers bitcoin trading for baht and operates solely within Thailand.
Of course, the Bank of Thailand wasn’t happy with this sudden change, they issued another warning by saying the exchange interpreted the letter in their own interests. Some even claimed that reopening the exchange was a bad decision which will have consequences. Until now, Bitcoin.co.th remains open to the public, offering all of its services without any restrictions.
The Bank of Thailand remained silent for a few weeks, contemplating how they should approach this the best way. Today, they woke up again, issuing another statement on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. Here’s how the Bank of Thailand describes Bitcoin: “Bitcoin is electronic data. Thus, it’s not considered a currency and can’t be used for payments, and it’s not considered legal tender like money. With no self worth, the value of such data varies based on the needs of the market. Bitcoin changes in value very quickly and it could become something of no value if none desired it.”
To clarify its opinion, the Bank of Thailand asks Thais to take a close look at what happened at Mt. Gox. The exchange has been at the center of attention for weeks now, and no good news has come of it ever since. This is an easy way for government authorities to criminalize Bitcoin and discourage potential users of buying and trading the virtual currency. Bank of Thailand made it clear that, in case of theft, loss of value or fraud, Thai people cannot claim damages because there’s no law to regulate Bitcoin in Thailand.
What’s interesting about the way the Bank of Thailand has been acting, is the way they seem to change opinions quite often. Bitcoin remained legal until authorities took notice of increasing popularity within the Thai borders. After that, the currency was made illegal. All trading took a stop and Thai that wanted to keep trading Bitcoin were forced to use sites that were situated abroad. This remained possible, even with Bitcoin’s supposed illegality.
In February, the country’s largest exchange opened up again. If the country’s opinion on the coin were shared, measures would have been taken to get Bitcoin.co.th to close its doors again. Instead, the site was allowed to remain open, Bank of Thailand simply released a statement warning the people. This shows that officials’ opinions are divided. Some love Bitcoin, others hate it. It’s interesting to see what stance Thailand will take in the future towards cryptocurrencies. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a more detailed statement quite soon.