Facebook approaches BoT on Libra

Facebook approaches BoT on Libra

The cryptocurrency's planned launch has central banks everywhere scrambling

A pile of Facebook stickers at the F8 Facebook Developers conference in San Jose, California. On June 18, Facebook revealed Libra, putting regulators all over the world on edge.
A pile of Facebook stickers at the F8 Facebook Developers conference in San Jose, California. On June 18, Facebook revealed Libra, putting regulators all over the world on edge.

The Bank of Thailand will schedule a meeting with Facebook to discuss the social media giant's much-touted Libra cryptocurrency.

Facebook has requested discussions with the central bank because Thailand has 50 million registered Facebook users, said Siritida Panomwon Na Ayudhya, assistant governor for payment systems policy.

The schedule will be finalised soon, she said. The central bank has set up a special team to study Facebook's "stablecoin" and its white paper.

The team is made up of representatives from several units, including payment, foreign exchange and legal.

Facebook is holding discussions with regulators around the world. The US Federal Reserve and the Monetary Authority of Singapore were among the first central banks to talk to the company about plans for the digital currency.

Facebook recently made waves by announcing the planned launch of Libra, a move that would enable the company to branch into digital money transfers and payment services.

According to Facebook, Libra will be backed by real-world assets including bank deposits and government securities to make the digital currency stable and more practical for fund transfers and payments.

With millions of Facebook users and cooperation from payment giants like Visa, Libra is expected to have high potential for use in money transfers and payment transactions and extend access to the unbanked. Still, regulators around the world remain cautious about the stablecoin's usage.

Thais are some of the biggest Facebook users in Asia.

"Consumer benefits and risks incurred from the digital currency are the central bank's main focus," Ms Siritida said. "We will also study the currency model, mechanism, security and consumer protection in case any problems crop up."

She said the Bank of Thailand has collaborated with other regional central banks to develop new financial innovations and create a platform for the region.

The collaboration will simplify financial transactions and strengthen security in preparation for the digital age and banking disruption worldwide.

Under a bilateral collaboration in standardised QR code payment, Thailand is developing the cross-border payment service with Cambodia and it is expected to be implemented this year.

The service is already available between Thailand and Laos, and Thailand and Singapore.

"It doesn't set a specific time frame for the service to be available across the region, but depends on the readiness of each country," Ms Siritida said. "There are different factors of the regional economy in the areas of consumer financial behaviour, economic development, ecosystem, regulations and laws. So it will gradually be developed."

The Bank of Thailand plans to allow financial institutions to offer e-Know Your Customer (e-KYC) using biometric technology to open new deposit accounts this month, with the service debuting at the Bangkok Fintech Fair on July 18.

The upcoming fair will focus on collaboration between all related parties -- consumers, business operators and the public sector -- which will extend to the regional level under the Asean fintech connectivity concept.

This year will see 68 booths at the fair, up from 58 last year. More than 2,000 visitors are expected for this year's fair after 2,000 came last year.


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