Despite repeated statements from central bank representatives that bitcoin remains illegal in Vietnam, the country has a flourishing bitcoin ecosystem including exchanges, miners, and a few merchants.
Now one of Vietnam’s state-owned TV networks, VTV1, has broadcast an informative report on bitcoin and interviewed some of its main local identities.
In the report, the co-founders of the Bitcoin Vietnam and VBTC exchanges, husband and wife team Dominik Weil and Nguyen Tran Bao Phuong, demonstrated how people could go online to buy bitcoins with local currency, the dong.
The programme also featured an interview with a State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) official who said the bank does not view bitcoin as money or a legal method of payment. He reportedly also said, however, that he reads the Bitcoin Vietnam blog and is trying to learn more about the cryptocurrency.
See the video of the VTV1 report below (the bitcoin segment begins at the 14:30 mark.)
Curious about bitcoin
Weil said the report showed people were still genuinely interested in hearing more. The reporter’s questions focused mainly on bitcoin’s current legal status in Vietnam, its potential use by criminals, the advantages of using bitcoin, and where he saw bitcoin, both in Vietnam and globally, within the next few years.
He told CoinDesk he welcomed the opportunity to practice explaining bitcoin to the uninitiated, saying:
“It seems like we can change the attitude step by step – the VTV report demands regulation on bitcoin, not an outright ban because [of] criminals, terrorists, tax evaders, money launderers etc. It seems like the long discussions with the journalists came to some fruition – and they understand a bit more, that this technological innovation could indeed have some positive outcomes as well.”
The local media “went crazy” after Bitcoin Vietnam sent out a simple press release, he said. Bitcoin and his company also featured in major national economic newspapers and “basically every tech-related website out there”.
Weil added that his wife Phuong helped put the media more at ease by putting a local face in bitcoin, showing it was not just an expat phenomenon. Weil himself is from Germany and the technology behind the VBTC exchange is from Israeli startup Bit2C.
Conditions are changing
This is all just a step away from the concerns surrounding Bitcoin Vietnam’s release of its open-book trading exchange VBTC just a month ago, when one central bank official called for bitcoin business operators to be arrested.
The company, and other similar ones, have tried to maintain open communication with officials to prevent such a crisis, and, in the end, no such arrests occurred.
TV reports such as this demonstrate that curiosity about bitcoin remains high around the world, even in jurisdictions that have initially appeared ‘unfriendly’ towards digital currencies – like Vietnam, Thailand, and China.
They also hint that large government institutions in countries like Vietnam and China contain a range of opinions on how to approach bitcoin. Even so, digital currency operations continued to grow despite adverse statements.
Crypto scene larger than it looks
Weil said that regulatory uncertainty probably meant there was a lot more interest and activity surrounding cryptocurrencies in Vietnam than it appeared. As well as bitcoin mining facilities, the community was also embracing Jed McCaleb’s new ‘stellar‘ protocol.
Statistics reveal Vietnam ranked third in the world for visits to the stellar website, after the US and Indonesia.
“This confirms our research results, that there is much more going on in the underground in Vietnam, than you can see on the surface.”
“The volume of the underground bitcoin trading market is probably close to two orders of magnitude higher than on our public platform so far,” he added.
Video and image via YouTube