In brief

  • Thailand's SEC has walked back a draft proposal that would have imposed restrictions on crypto investment.
  • The proposal sparked a backlash, as it would have blocked low- and middle-income individuals from investing in cryptocurrency.

Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission has backtracked on a proposal that would have required cryptocurrency investors to have a minimum annual income of one million baht ($33,000), following a public backlash.

According to the Bangkok Post, the SEC has stated that the draft proposal was intended to judge public sentiment. 

The proposal would have required would-be crypto investors to have two years’ experience of trading cryptocurrency, stocks or futures, and to have either 1 million baht in annual personal income, or either a net worth of 10 million baht ($330,000) or an investment portfolio of 5 million baht ($165,000). They would also have to score above 80% in a crypto knowledge test administered by exchanges.

The news sparked a public backlash, with crypto advocates taking to social media to argue that the move would exclude low- and middle-income individuals from the opportunity to invest in cryptocurrency. In response, SEC secretary-general Ruenvadee Suwanmongkol stated that the stringent criteria were proposed in order to “prompt people to express their opinions on the matter,” and that they were not the exact qualifications that would be written into law. The SEC also rescheduled a live talk on the hearing from March 24 to March 3.

Global regulators wrestle with crypto

The SEC’s about-face comes against a backdrop of rising crypto adoption in Thailand. According to a September 2020 report by blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis, Thailand narrowly missed out on a place in the top 10 countries leading the way on crypto usage. 

And the Thai government isn’t blind to the opportunities presented by cryptocurrency; the country’s tourism authority is looking to lure “high-spending” Japanese cryptocurrency holders to the country, conducting a feasibility study on implementing digital currency at tourism destinations.

Around the world, regulatory bodies are wrestling with the explosion of interest in cryptocurrencies among retail investors, and their mandate to protect investors. 

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority has banned the sale of cryptocurrency derivatives to retail investors, while US SEC chair Gary Gensler has previously argued that, “we need to protect investors. The crypto exchanges, big exchanges like Coinbase, need to come within the SEC or the CFTC.” 

Crypto regulation will present challenges, too; Gensler’s colleague, SEC commissioner Hester Peirce, has noted that decentralized finance (DeFi) will test the body’s ability to regulate “with an eye toward protecting the interests of investors and markets, not incumbents.”