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Thai regulators concerned over crypto boom

crypto boom

Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission said that it would soon require traders to have experience or pass an exam

Atichanan Pulges first became interested in cryptocurrencies a decade ago when he was an engineering student in Los Angeles. Mining bitcoin was a way for the Bangkok native to learn about markets and pay his rent.

Now back in Thailand after a stint at Goldman Sachs Group, Mr Atichanan is a co-founder of the nation’s largest licensed cryptocurrency exchange. He’s also on the front lines of an intensifying debate over who should be allowed to buy digital assets in South-east Asia’s second-largest economy.

Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission, alarmed by a sixfold surge in domestic crypto trading since November, said on April 1 that it would soon require traders to have experience, or take courses or pass an exam. The regulator didn’t finalise a date and opted not to ban local exchanges from accepting clients who didn’t meet minimum-income levels, which had been mulled. Digital-asset proponents including Mr Atichanan argue that too many restrictions will merely drive Thais to unregulated platforms overseas.

The regulator realizes any curbs can’t reverse the tide toward digital, said Mr Atichanan, 33, who co-founded Bitkub in 2018. He said the exchange accounts for about 90 per cent of domestic crypto trading and serves 300,000 customers, figures that Bloomberg has been unable to independently verify.

While volumes on Thai crypto exchanges are still small relative to counterparts in countries like the US and South Korea, they’ve been surging in recent months as digital assets including bitcoin have jumped to all-time highs.

Total trading turnover on all local licensed crypto exchanges jumped to 124 billion baht ($3.95 billion) in February from 18 billion baht ($0.57 billion) in November, according to data from the Thai SEC, which only date back to November. Bitkub’s daily turnover of 4.2 billion baht ($0.13 billion) in February reflects an increase of nearly 40 per cent from a month earlier, according to the company’s statistics. A 24-hour turnover figure on March 30 ranked it 124th among more than 300 exchanges worldwide tracked by CoinMarketCap.

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