Is Bitcoin Really Illegal in Thailand?

Saiyai Sakawee
11:30 am on Aug 1, 2013


On July 30th, there was news that Thailand’s national bank had ruled Bitcoin illegal. Of course, this came in as a shock to many people who use the virtual currency, especially those who are not Thai. The ruling left those who follow the news wondering: can the bank make laws?

Actually, the answer is yes and no. Bitcoin exchange services in Thailand weren’t actually declared “illegal” per se, but Bitcoin Co. Ltd., the company this news originally came from, has been operating in Thailand without a license, which is illegal.

Any type of currency enchange service in Thailand needs to get a license from the Bank of Thailand, according to the Exchange Control Regulations in Thailand whether it’s “real” money or not. That’s why Bitcoin Co. Ltd. needed to be authorized to operate, and since it didn’t have that authorization, it was forced to shut down.

Prasan Trairatworakun, Bank of Thailand’s governor, says that the bank hasn’t approved Bitcoin Co. Ltd. to do business in Thailand because the transactions that the company is involved in center around the exchange rate but are not an actual currency exchange (since bitcoin is not a physical currency).

Of course, this is something really new for Thailand and the explanation Prasan gave comes from old laws because we don’t have any rules to support electronic currencies. Therefore, since there are no applicable laws that can control or tax Bitcoins, they are de-facto illegal (for now).

However, the Bank of Thailand isn’t just ignoring this matter. It’s working with the relevant authorities such as the Ministry of ICT and the Securities and Exchange Commission to sort this out. Using Bitcoin in any way within the Kingdom of Thailand is banned for now, but if Bitcoin Co. Ltd. has proof that this digital crypto-currency has legally operated in other countries without interfering with the real-money exchange system, the Bank of Thailand might reconsider its ruling.

(Picture Credit:

(Editing by Charlie Custer)

  • james mathew

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  • Mark

    “Using Bitcoin in any way within the Kingdom of Thailand is banned for now …”

    WTF. Since when are things illegal by default unless a law says you can do it.

    By default things are legal unless there is a law that prohibits it. So the people of Thailand can use bitcoin until the government of Thailand passes a law banning it.

    A bank can adopt a policy that it doesn’t want to deal with bitcoin. But that doesn’t make it illegal. Only the government of the country can declare it as illegal. And that has not happened yet.

  • Benjamin Joffe

    For a more informed reporting on this topic, you should read up on what defines “money”, a “fiat currency” and “legal tender”. You will then understand more about the economic implications of having Bitcoin around and used in a country. It’s much bigger than “the little cool open project against big bad closed government”.

  • berenod


    Bummer, I like to put peanut butter on my bread. Unfortunately there are no laws in Thailand governing the use of peanut butter, so it must be totally illegal.

    What do I eat now in the morning? I’m desperately trying to find the laws governing jam,chocolate spread, eggs,… Heeelp, I’m getting hungry!

  • Chris

    If trading in money that is “not real” money is illegal then would it be illegal to sell a Monopoly set? What about the Chinese “hell money” that is burned as offerings?

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