Bitcoin, a decentralized virtual currency, has been declared illegal in Thailand. Members of the Foreign Exchange Administration and Policy Department made the determination at a meeting on July 29 in the Southeastern Asian country, according to a Bitcoin exchange operator in attendance.
Buying and selling bitcoins, using them to purchase goods, sending bitcoins to anyone located outside of Thailand and receiving bitcoins from anyone outside of Thailand are all considered illegal activities, according to Bitcoin Co. Ltd., which is headquartered in Bangkok. Bitcoin Co.'s website is still up, but the exchange has suspended trading.
"Based on such a broad and encompassing advisement, Bitcoin Co. Ltd. therefore has no choice but to suspend operations until such as time that the laws in Thailand are updates to account for the existence of Bitcoin," says the exchange in a notice on the website. "The Bank of Thailand has said they will further consider the issue, but did not give any specific timeline."
The Thai government made its decision based on the lack of applicable laws governing virtual currency, Bitcoin Co. says. Other alternative currencies met the same fate, according to a Bitcoin Forum user that goes by dave111223, who indicated he was at the meeting. The Bank of Thailand's New York office did not immediately return a call requesting comment.
The exchange has spent the past several months registering with Thai government agencies to operate legally. In performing its due diligence, the exchange reached out to the Bank of Thailand, which regulates financial transactions in the country. Initially the bank said Bitcoin was not a currency so the money exchange licenses could be bypassed, the company says.
During the meeting, which about 15 members of the Bank of Thailand attended, Bitcoin Co. Ltd. spoke about how Bitcoin works, its use cases and future implications.
While Bitcoin has started to gain mainstream acceptance as an online currency, it is still having trouble playing alongside legacy financial services, especially in the U.S. In March, the Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network issued guidance of virtual currency to categorize exchangers and administrators as money services businesses. Since then, many Bitcoin businesses have faced issues working with traditional banks.