Bitcoin volumes in Thailand have risen 4x this past week on the peer to peer exchange Localbitcoin which can provide an unfakable proxy measure of general worldwide bitcoin adoption.
In their own fiat money, Thai Baht, bitcoin volumes have reached all time high in the country. Some 70 million Thai Baht, significantly higher than the December 2017 high of 50 million.
In bitcoin, ₿417 ($2.3 million) exchanged hands in the past week, up from the usual ₿130 in the previous weeks and the highest since 2016.
The main reason is probably due to a recent arrest warrant for a cryptonian couple which likely has raised general bitcoin awareness in the country.
The Thai Navy is to remove a seastead home built by Chad Elwartowski, an American bitcoin investor, and his Thai girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, known as “Bitcoin Girl Thailand,” according to regional media.
They are facing charges of threatening the kingdom’s independence after the authorities claimed their ocean-based home is 12 nautical miles from Phuket’s shore and thus within Thai’s territory.
Elwartowski claims the ocean home is 13 nautical miles away and therefore outside Thailand’s territorial waters and in international waters.
The bitcoin-rich couple – who are still in hiding – are part of Ocean Builders, a community of entrepreneurs who aim to build permanent homes in waters outside of government territory.
Elwartowski, a software engineer who worked for the United States military, blogged regularly on Ocean Builders about erecting their ocean-dwelling home, a 6m-wide octagonal platform which included a kitchen, bathroom, dining area and bedroom.
They had recently called for 20 interested investors for new seasteads – each costing about US$150,000 (S$203,250) – to be built around their maiden platform. The money would have initially been raised by bitcoin.
All of the above has become international news, with broadcasting TV, like Sky News, reporting on it.
Likewise it has probably made national TV in Thailand and maybe even the prime TV News spot.
That’s while the country is in a state of political confusion after an election on the 24th of March led to some newspapers calling the process chaotic.
Thailand is ruled by the military in a semi-dictatorial manner. A general is the current prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha from the Palang Pracharat party.
“A political deadlock looms as the Pheu Thai Party, formed of the loyalists of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has joined an opposition ‘democratic front’ alliance trying to block junta leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha from staying in power and official results could be delayed,” says Reuters.
There have been some initial results showing anti-junta and Thaksin aligned Pheu Thai Party winning most seats, yet the official results are not to be announced until May, about two months after the election.
Thaksin is a bitcoiner and very popular in the country. It appears the king, who is revered, supports Thaksin ever so subtly.
On the night prior to the election the king issued a statement urging the people to remember a quote from his father, the late king, to support “good people.”
That’s as coded as it can be for whoever wants to hear, but combined with his sister surprising everyone by announcing political candidacy for an anti-junta party – which has now been dissolved and her candidacy retracted – this unusual intervention by the king as well does indicate a significant power struggle in Bangkok.
Blockchain tech is neutral by design, but it does appear there can be a considerable crypto hub in the relatively rich and quite tech advanced Bangkok if the Thaksin aligned parties gain the upper hand.
The same could apply if the junta retains power, but what little they’ve said seems to suggest they kind of have no clue about cryptos.
So the outcome of this election does matter to this space and more generally it matters for all those inclined towards freedom and democracy.
Politically however this nation has been very unstable with the military intervening a number of times to oust democratically elected governments.
Economically Thailand is doing relatively well, with yearly GDP growth at close to 4% on very low inflation of about 1.2% and interest rates of 1.75%.
Making it potentially a nice base for crypto businesses in the region if a new government starts waving the crypto flag, but what will happen in Thailand remains to be seen.