When most Westerners hear the word “Thailand” they usually envision and exotic tropical local where anything is available for a price. If these images were real then Thailand would seem to be the type of open economic environment that is perfect for cryptocurrencies of all types.
The real world is seldom the way that we see it however, especially if the way we see it is from our televisions. Thailand is a thriving, diverse county with many opportunities as well as risks. The Bitcoin community in Thalland is thriving with four unregistered exchanges and now two fully legal exchanges. The first legal exchange in Thailand was opened by Bitcoin Company Limited.
But, like most of the world, the government in Bangkok has been, to say the least, hesitant to embrace Bitcoin and their overall negative attitude has led to rumors that the government had banned cryptocurrencies all together. Whatever Thailand's stance on Bitcoin was in the past doesn’t matter as the country approved its first and second fully-legal and fully-regulated Bitcoin exchanges.
The country began to take a hard stance against Bitcoin in July, 2013 after Bitcoin Company Limited presented the idea of Bitcoin operations in the country to the Bank of Thailand. The Bank was mainly concerned with the lack of regulation or even applicable laws and capital controls. They also had concerns about the ability to control Bitcoin because it applies to so many different facets of the economy. But this stance began to relax in the spring after the Minister of Finance made the statement that Bitcoin was not in their legal jurisdiction “so long as foreign currencies are used to make the exchanges.”
The stance changed from a ban on trading to ‘permitted trading’ but to/from Thai baht only within a few months. When the restrictions were first relaxed, the Bank of Thailand said that it had no plans to make any expansions in the law with regards to regulating Bitcoin. One reality however is that the Bitcoin community in Thailand is thriving and growing and ruling that Bitcoin was not “currency” was not a ban on using or holding Bitcoin. We must remember that while the government shut down the countries biggest Bitcoin exchange, it later allowed it to resume operations.
But until now Bitcoin exchanges in Thailand were unregulated. Then an exchange opened earlier this year to complement the Bitcoin Company LTD. The company's E-Commerce registration was approved on June 20, 2014 by the Huay Khwang District Office and the exchange’s website (coins.co.th) is open for business.
Coins (Thailand) Co. Ltd. is now the second fully regulated Bitcoin exchange in Thailand alongside Thai Bitcoin marketplace with only these two exchanges obtaining e-commerce registrations. But Bitcoin is still being traded as a commodity and not as currency. And the Thai government does not appear ready to change this anytime soon while merchants are not obligated to accept it as legal tender. The good thing is however that more and more merchants are accepting Bitcoin, which now number over 30 according to some estimates.