Thailand’s government has just taken the title of being the first in the world to interfere in internal crypto matters in an utterly bizarre new announcement that is difficult to decipher.
They say that only Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Stellar can be used as base trading pairs or to fund Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).
While Bitcoin Cash, ETC or Litecoin – and presumably everything else – can not be accepted by ICO-ing projects nor can they be used as base trading pairs by exchanges, while previously they could.
“In any case, the list update has no impact on investors or digital asset businesses because so far no ICO has been launched and the operating digital asset exchanges have never used BCH, ETC or LTC as base trading pairs,” so they say. Raising the question: why bother then?
“Key factors taken into consideration regarding the cryptocurrencies on the list include relevant developments and news, as well as other important factors related to cryptocurrencies. The list will be updated periodically.”
Great, we’ll now have to keep up with what Thailand’s SEC added to the list or removed from the list especially when it doesn’t affect anything.
Military Rule in Bangkok
Few have heard much of Thailand, but the country is under military rule with the first election in eight years to be held this March 24th.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta that has ruled Thailand since a coup in 2014, has ousted a number of democratically elected governments starting with the removal from power of Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.
Prayut Chan-o-cha (pictured), the military coup leader turned prime minister, “has wielded unchecked power with total impunity,” Sunai Phasuk, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch said.
Prayut has banned “all political campaigning including political gatherings of more than five people, hundreds of activists have been arrested and charged under draconian laws such as sedition or the lese majeste — which prohibits criticism of the royal family — and the sphere for robust public discourse has all but disappeared thanks a Computer Crimes Act that restrict online expression and increases surveillance and censorship,” according to CNN.
“Thailand’s junta has created a highly repressive environment, restricting online discourse and detaining activists, opposition politicians, academics, and writers,” says the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
With that background, the Thai SEC announcement might look less bizarre. This appears to be a dictatorship that censors the internet with the government presumably making arbitrary laws to keep everyone on their toes.
A Royal Power Struggle
Thailand is a monarchy with the royalty popular in the country. Thus when Princess Ubolratana, elder sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, briefly became sole leading candidate for a political party, Thai Raksa Chart, all were shocked.
The king quickly intervened, calling her candidacy inappropriate. Thai Raksa Chart might now be dissolved in a court ruling to be held this March 7th.
That has increased tensions further, with much of it revolving around Thaksin Shinawatra, the self-exiled longest serving democratically elected prime minister of Thailand who was removed in a coup in 2006.
“Thaksin, who lives in self-exile to avoid jail in Thailand, is adored by rice farmers and large sections of urban working-class voters for his pro-poor policies and steering of the economy.
But he is despised by the royalist elite, whose allies have failed to beat him at the polls since 2001 and instead have relied on coups and court rulings to topple Shinawatra-backed governments.” So says AFP.
Thaksin happens to be a bitcoiner since 2017, recently stating “the internet is called the World Wide Web of Information, but Blockchain is the World Wide Ledgers of Value.”
Thailand, a Potential Tech Hub?
Thailand is a newly industrialized country with a purchasing parity GDP of $1.3 trillion and a population of some 70 million.
It ranks relatively high for internet speed, 21st out of all countries, with free wi-fi hotspots widespread as well as 10Gbit/s high speed fibre-optic lines.
It is well positioned in South East Asia with a long line of beaches, so one can see the potential of a tech hub in the country.
That might depend on what happens on the 27th of March. The main Thaksin aligned political party, Puea Thai, remains very popular in the country. A potential dissolution of the other Thaksin aligned party, Thai Raksa Chart, might however keep General Prayut as prime minister.
The joke card here is the king who is meant to stay out of politics, but “under Thailand’s new king the monarchy has increasingly dominated the army, taking direct control of the Crown Property Bureau (a state agency that controls some $30 billion in assets), reshuffles in the armed forces, and other major issues,” says CFR.
Some say the brief candidacy of the princess was with the initial approval of the king, while others say Thaksin just assumed so.
Thaksin remains popular as during his rule between 2001 and 2006, poverty fell from 21% to 11%. IMF loans were paid off. GDP grew. The budget was balanced, foreign exchange reserves doubled, and generally the economy was improving.
If his parties do win, then this space might have a champion in South East Asia. Regardless of what happens, cryptos and blockchain tech are neutral by design, but it does look like Thailand’s SEC needs to inform itself a bit more about the crypto space.