Cryptocurrencies committee to outline stance this month

Cryptocurrencies committee to outline stance this month

A working committee on cryptocurrencies is expected to clarify its stance on how to regulate digital currencies by this month, aiming to guard against fraud from investment in the tokens.

"Allowing bitcoin transactions to be made without warnings and direction from regulators is not acceptable," said finance permanent secretary Somchai Sujjapongse.

The Bank of Thailand, Finance Ministry and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) need to issue warnings that digital currencies are not regulated and investors in them do so at their own risk, he said.

Following the wild swings in bitcoin's trading value, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed the Finance Ministry to educate people about the risks of investing in the virtual currency.

The central bank, SEC, Finance Ministry and Anti-Money Laundering Office agreed to set up a working panel tasked with considering potential measures to handle problems in dealing with digital currencies.

"The working panel must work more rapidly over the next month to inform regulators on how to handle bitcoin," Mr Somchai said. "However, it is not correct to consider blockchain harmful if we do not prefer bitcoin, as blockchain technology can create benefits. We can reap benefit from using blockchain technology."

It is too early to say how regulators will treat bitcoin, as Thailand needs to coordinate with other countries, he said.

At the moment, many countries are launching crackdowns on digital currencies. India's government yesterday said cryptocurrencies are not considered legal tender and it will take all measures to eliminate payments using them.

Since reaching a peak of almost US$20,000 (627,258 baht) in early December after the introduction of futures contracts on regulated exchanges in the US, a torrent of negative news has surrounded bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, with losses intensifying in the new year.

Bitcoin's January slide knocked $44.2 billion off the $200-billion market value generated in all of 2017, the biggest one-month loss in dollar terms in the short history of digital assets, according to Bloomberg.

Mr Somchai said regulators must clarify first whether cryptocurrencies are legitimate.

As people are highly interested in the issue, the study must be done thoroughly, he said, noting that the Bank of Thailand has studied digital currencies and the committee's work is based on the central bank's initial study.

Commenting on SET-listed mobile distributor Jay Mart's plan to let its subsidiary J Ventures raise funds through an initial coin offering (ICO), Mr Somchai said the SEC is taking responsibility for the subject and is conducting a public hearing on ICOs.

"There is no law governing ICOs, so Jay Mart has not done anything wrong -- but don't cheat people," he said.

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