ASEAN: Governments and Cryptocurrencies
ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was originally formed in 1967 by five member nations, namely Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The original 5 member alliance’s aim was to promote regional stability. Currently, ASEAN consists of 10 member countries. Brunei joined ASEAN in 1984, Vietnam joined in 1995, Myanmar and Laos joined in 1997, and Cambodia joined in 1999. ASEAN is globally recognized as a political and economic organization primarily aimed at promoting economic growth and regional stability among its members. ASEAN initiated a free trade agreement in 1992 where members reduced intraregional tariffs and eased travel in the region for citizens of member countries.
The organization has also eased restrictions on foreign investments by creating the ASEAN free trade that allows trading with other countries such as China. To accelerate and promote peace and security in the region, ASEAN has all of its 10 member countries sign a treaty pledging not to develop nuclear weapons. Most have already agreed to a counter-terrorism pact which includes sharing intelligence and easing the extradition process of terror suspects. In total, the ASEAN region has a population of more than 600 million covering an area of 1.7 million square miles. This article focuses on ASEAN member countries and how each country’s government handles the cryptocurrency market.
ASEAN Member Countries
As stated earlier, ASEAN consists of 10 member countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Brunei, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Below we take a look at each country’s legal status, policies, and regulations towards cryptocurrencies.
The Malaysian government has somewhat taken a hands-off approach to cryptocurrencies in the country. While it does not recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender, it hasn’t taken the step to ban them either. Malaysia has an AML and set of Counter Financing of Terrorism policy guidelines that addresses cryptocurrencies. The guidelines state that all Malaysian cryptocurrency exchange platforms are to adhere to KYC procedures. They are required to collect the name, address, and date of birth of all customers, including the collection of ID documentation.
Thailand’s government views cryptocurrencies and digital tokens as digital assets. Thailand’s SEC is in charge of regulating cryptocurrency transactions and verifying the identity of clients. The SEC has announced that it will allow 7 cryptocurrencies to be traded as trading pairs. These include Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Ripple, Litecoin, and Stellar. Also, all crypto-exchanges, dealers, and brokers are required to apply for operational licenses with the SEC and must receive the Finance Ministry’s approval to conduct digital asset business.
The government of Singapore has not issued any ban against cryptocurrencies. The reason for this is the fact that the government believes that cryptocurrency activity in the country does not pose a significant threat to financial stability. However, it is well-aware of some of the dangers of cryptocurrencies, such as money laundering, terrorism funding, and fraud. Therefore, it’s monitoring the crypto-space carefully with the intention of not stifling the erupting innovation. So far, the government is exploring a central bank based cryptocurrency, having issued a Singapore cryptocurrency on the blockchain to facilitate payments among banks without going through the MAS.
At the beginning of the year, the Indonesian government had issued several warnings on cryptocurrency trading because of the risk of loss to the public and a potential threat to the stability of the financial system. Cryptocurrencies are not regarded as legal tender in Indonesia and therefore, can’t be used as a means of payment in the country. However, the Indonesian Trade Ministry’s Futures Exchange Supervisory Board has signed a decree that allows cryptocurrency to be traded on the stock exchange as a legal commodity. The government also plans to soon release legislation on cryptocurrency exchange platforms, taxation, and combating terrorism financing and money laundering.
The Philippines has always had a positive attitude towards cryptocurrencies. In fact, there are plans to allow several cryptocurrency companies to operate in its economic zone to take full advantage of tax perks being offered. However, interested companies need to commit to investing a minimum of $1 million over a 2 year period and pay up to $100,000 in license fees.
Possession of digital assets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum is not explicitly banned in Vietnam. Cryptocurrency mining is not banned either. However, the Vietnamese government has banned the trading of cryptocurrencies. The Vietnam government said last year that it would develop a legal framework to manage cryptocurrencies and digital assets in the country.
Brunei holds a non-hostile position on cryptocurrencies. It warns the public of the dangers of investing in cryptocurrencies while at the same time it encourages the growth of FinTech. Cryptocurrencies are not considered legal tenders in Brunei and therefore, they are not regulated by AMBD (Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam). However, it is not illegal to trade, own, or immerse oneself in cryptocurrency.
The Cambodian government remains uncertain on its status regarding cryptocurrencies. On one hand, the government is planning to launch its own cryptocurrency. On the other hand, it has banned cryptocurrency transactions. Banks have gone to the extent of preventing customers from buying or selling cryptocurrencies through their bank accounts. This has made access to cryptocurrencies difficult even though the government has not banned individuals from owning them. The ICO market in the country is also something worth looking into, as the country has some serious catching up to do in terms of Fintech technology – but that also means there’s plenty of room to grow.
The cryptocurrency status in Laos remains friendly. The first ever cryptocurrency exchange in Laos, known as Vientiane Exchange, was recently launched in the country. The exchange will only offer support for seven currencies, both digital and traditional.
The Myanmar government has warned its citizens to keep a distance from trading cryptocurrencies with the influx of cryptocurrency related scams on the rise. The government has however allowed people to explore cryptocurrencies but to remain cautious every step of the way as they invest in cryptocurrencies.
Judging by the above data, it seems the cryptocurrency mania is yet to simmer down. The majority of the ASEAN member countries have a generally friendly attitude towards cryptocurrencies. Most of the member country’s governments are taking an active role in ensuring that their citizens get the best out of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies could be set to thrive in these ASEAN countries.
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