News  •  Regulation

Vietnam Warns Against Bitcoin, Invokes the Ghost of Gox

(@southtopia) | Published on February 28, 2014 at 15:11 BST

Vietnam's State Bank has issued another statement warning against bitcoin, blocking credit institutions from offering any digital currency services.

Authorities had already issued a strong warning back on 14th February, stating that the government and State Bank did not recognize bitcoin as a legitimate method of payment.

It also contained all the usual admonitions about money laundering, tax evasion, illicit trade, and the risk of speculation. Consumers would have no protection in the event of investment loss, the statement says.

It stopped short of explicitly banning anyone other than banking-related businesses from using bitcoin, however.

Mt. Gox features

While the warning is similar to others we've seen before, there are a couple of notable differences this time around. An automated translation of the Vietnamese language statement shows that it mentions the recent collapse of Mt. Gox and brief pauses on other exchanges like Bitstamp due to hacking attempts as part of the threat.

Almost in the same breath, it claims US authorities have arrested four people suspected of using bitcoin for criminal transactions (how this is related to Bitstamp or Mt. Gox doesn't appear to be clarified).

This is new, and could be a sign authorities in other countries may start to haul out Mt. Gox as the new bitcoin bogeyman to frighten the public now that Silk Road is becoming a distant memory.

A global effort

The statement also refers to warnings issued by other countries: namely Thailand, Russia, France, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Norway as evidence the bitcoin menace is international.

It doesn't mention, however, that at least two of those countries (France, Malaysia and possibly Indonesia) have chosen to avoid any restrictions on bitcoin for now.

Norway has said little about it at all, save for an interview with a tax official who said bitcoin "doesn't fall under the usual definition of money" and claimed it was an asset.

Vietnam and the internet

This recent thread on reddit detailed one local bitcoin enthusiast's struggles to bring bitcoin use to Vietnam. As well as the common global barrier of bitcoin ignorance, there was also some resistance from the country's state-run media.

While Vietnam has liberalized its economy and become more business-friendly over the past couple of decades, it remains a communist state with a government suspicious of what too much economic and personal freedom might bring.

A 2012 Reporters Without Borders report said the authorities kept a firm control over the official media with censorship and Internet filtering, and regularly arrested bloggers and other citizens for online behavior. It is the "world’s second biggest prison for netizens after China," the report continued.

Ho Chi Minh Memorial image via Shutterstock

AsiaMt GoxSoutheast AsiaVietnam

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