The website of Vietnam's first Bitcoin exchange
A proposed Bitcoin exchange could be illegal and faces the threat of official sanctions, but its founder says the digital currency is unstoppable like the Internet was two decades ago.
Private company Bitcoin Vietnam said last month it would set up Vietnam’s first exchange in late April with Israeli partner Bit2C.
But the central bank has issued a statement saying Bitcoin is not recognized as a currency.
The company's director, Nguyen Tran Bao Phuong, said the central bank has been informed and the exchange's website, www.bitcoinvietnam.com.vn, has been registered with the Ministry of Industry and Trade's e-commerce department, though the latter did not grant approval since Bitcoin is not a currency or a commodity officially recognized in Vietnam.
But she told Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon Online that the exchange would open for sure.
There are plans to meet with related government authorities to discuss the positive features of Bitcoin since the happenings are similar to those in 1995 when the government thought hard about whether the Internet should be allowed.
She said she is willing to cooperate with the authorities to prevent Bitcoin-related crimes.
“Even when the government does not accept Bitcoin, like in China, it is very hard to have laws to completely ban it.
"Many governments actually want to stop it but they cannot.”
The website has listed Bitcoin buying and selling prices at VND9.6-9.8 million (US$460-470) and invited people to sign up as members.
But it warns that the market for Bitcoin might never get big in Vietnam and that investors have to realize there is a risk that they can lose everything.
Tran Huu Linh, head of the e-Commerce and Information Technology Department at the trade ministry, told the newspaper that Phuong’s exchange would violate the laws since it is not licensed.
But lawyer Tran Phuong Bac said that the establishment of an online exchange only requires registration with the ministry and not a license, though the ministry has to confirm the registration.
Failure can entail a penalty of VND20-30 million and a six-12-month suspension, he said.
Phuong said she registered with the ministry but was informed that the ministry had nothing to do with Bitcoin since it is not a recognized commodity.
Financial analyst Phan Dung Khanh said the exchange would not be attractive to investors given that few businesses in Vietnam or anywhere else accept the currency.
There is little safety since there is no central authority or bank to take responsibility for cryptography errors or provide protection in case of fraud.
Khanh said the collapse in February of the world’s biggest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox in Tokyo, must cause investors and others to have second thoughts.
It is thought that 850,000 Bitcoins worth US$473 million were lost or stolen in a hacking attack on the exchange.
Other asset classes in Vietnam such as stocks and property are doing well and officially protected, and so there is no reason to choose a risky asset, he said.
Vietnamese prefer to trade and exchange something tangible, he added.
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