SET mulls 'stablecoin' to tame Libra

SET mulls 'stablecoin' to tame Libra

Game plan to handle cryptocurrency risk

SET floats the idea of launching a digital
SET floats the idea of launching a digital "stablecoin" to be used domestically at first before expanding into Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam if the asset takes hold. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) has floated the idea of launching a digital "stablecoin" to be used domestically at first before expanding into Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam if the asset takes hold.

The digital coin idea was proposed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) several months ago, said SET president Pakorn Peetathawatchai.

"I would like to reiterate that it's still just the idea," he said. "We are thinking about new ways to make [securities] trading easier and it is under the SEC's consideration. Technology changes faster than people think."

Facebook's Libra is not unprecedented but it will have an impact on people around the world if it comes into being, Mr Pakorn said.

"People's trust is what Libra or any other cryptocurrency cannot steal from banks," he said. "How can we trust an intermediary that is not supervised by regulators?"

Mr Pakorn said the SET is also exploring opportunities in digital assets to use technology in connection with other markets because physical linkages need massive investment.

The SET will seek partners in digital platform development, he said, adding that linking with the global market will sharpen the bourse's competitive edge.

"Technology is moving at a faster pace than expected. We don't know what the SET will look like in the next four years," Mr Pakorn said. "What the securities and asset management business will become is also unpredictable."

Teeranun Srihong, the chairman of the board of commissioners at the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, warned that banks could be collapsed by Facebook's Libra if they still take a back-seat approach to business adaptation or joining cryptocurrency blockchains.

The social media giant's Libra could deal a blow to central banks as they lose control of currencies. If that happens, central banks will find it more difficult to tackle economic crises, as money-laundering activities or terrorists could exploit the new digital coin and escape regulators' grasp, said Mr Teeranun, a former adviser to the SEC and ex-president of Kasikornbank.

Central banks around the globe have raised eyebrows over Facebook's digital token plan and want to implement oversight to ensure that the virtual coin is not used to wash money.

Mr Teeranun said governments can typically track financial transactions through banks but cannot do so in the case of Libra.

Governments' concerns can be addressed if regulators issue their own stablecoins that are linked with Libra in order to control local currencies, he said.

The Bank of Thailand said recently that it would 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.

The social media giant 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 Facebook about its plans for Libra.

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