Bitcoin booms and crypto conundrums – Bangkok Post


Bitkub CEO ‘Topp’ Jirayut outlines the pitfalls and potential of blockchain-based assets on the ‘Bangkok Post’ podcast ‘Deeper Dive’.
PUBLISHED : 21 Aug 2023 at 04:42
WRITER: Dave Kendall
A plethora of issues divide opinion in 2023, but there are few more polarising subjects than cryptocurrencies.
“Topp” Jirayut Srupsrisopa has long been engaged in the debate. The CEO of Bitkub Capital Group Holdings, owner of Thailand’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, found himself arguing with both the central bank and his own parents when he started the country’s first bitcoin wallet,, in 2013.
“My parents have a small factory, a small shop in the Pratu Nam area in Bangkok,” he tells Dave Kendall on the Bangkok Post‘s new podcast, Deeper Dive.
“I used the spare room, and after eight months the Bank of Thailand issued a formal letter to all the commercial banks saying that bitcoin could be a Ponzi scheme.
“So who would my parents believe, right?”
Ten years on, Mr Jirayut has raised millions of dollars while Bitkub has more than 1,000 employees.
Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies themselves have seen violent swings in fortune. Aside from the price volatility, the credibility and reputation of digital assets have been hit by the collapse of the altcoins Luna and TerraUSD, along with the bankruptcies of Three Arrows, Voyager, Celsius, FTX, Blockfi and Silvergate Bank.
Mr Jirayut blames a combination of poor banking practices and outright fraud.
“Bitkub is well protected because we don’t mess around with customers’ money. You leave it in a separate savings account. There’s no fractional reserve system of crypto, but other exchange seems to violate that,” he said.
“The digital asset space and blockchain space operate in a free market mechanism. There is no central bank stepping in and bailing out… There’ll be a natural selection, and the ones that are not doing things properly, [will] fade away,” said Mr Jirayut.
Mr Jirayut doesn’t believe US authorities’ aggressive moves to limit access to crypto are being reflected elsewhere in the world, and advocates a balance between innovation and security.
“First, crypto cannot be fully dead or cannot be banned,” he says. “Truly, unless we shut down the internet — which is not feasible, right? But we have to talk about governance more. And I think central bankers understand this too. They don’t like crypto, but they understand that they have to live with it.”
“Since central banks cannot control cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, one way they can exert power in the space is by issuing their own blockchain-based assets known as central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) — official versions of a stablecoin like USDT.
“In a sense, you won’t be with Bangkok Bank or Krung Thai, you’ll effectively have an account with the Bank of Thailand. This will automate cumbersome activities like taxpaying, make transactions far quicker and simpler, and deal a body blow to graft.
“There’ll be less corruption for sure. Because everything would be transparent. No under-the-table payments, because everything would be transparent,” Mr Jirayut explained.
There is, however, a potential darker side to these centralised digital assets: they will give authoritarian governments — of which there is no shortage in Asia — the opportunity to monitor and control every citizen’s wealth and purchases.
In theory, the ability of government critics to make purchases could be confined to a specific geographical area — they might only be allowed to purchase certain items, or they might even see their wealth docked or confiscated.
Mr Jirayut, however, does not see this aspect of CDBCs as a significant issue. In any case, he says, anyone who uses online banking or payment apps can already be surveilled.
“I think Thailand has 1.4 phones per person,” he tells the podcast. “And mobile banking transactions are the highest in the world in Thailand, exceeding China and the US. So clearly, people are not concerned with centralised data, a centralised database and a closed system.”
With the Bank of Thailand planning to roll out its own CBDC later this year or next, the kingdom is in many ways at the forefront of digitisation.
The Bitkub CEO waxes lyrical about the democratising and decentralising aspects of blockchain.
“Two billion people worldwide are currently unbanked because they … don’t make enough money per month, just to be profitable to maintain [banks’] expensive operations,” he says. “We can create a global payment system, sharing liquidity with all asset classes by tokenisation.”
Rosy projections aside, most crypto enthusiasts are likely to be more concerned with bread-and-butter issues — like the price of bitcoin.
“I think the next boom will be driven by institutional money… not just retail money, right, like the previous boom,” says Mr Jirayut, stating two requirements for that to take place.
“First, clear regulations. Institutional money cannot come into a grey space. And second, is the infrastructure advanced enough in terms of security? Institutional funds… have to make sure that they have a place to keep their assets safe.”
“Our world is moving in an exponential manner,” Mr Jirayut says on Deeper Dive. “I say five years, but… could be sooner.”
And if someone does want to take the crypto plunge, how much should they invest? While some financial advisors suggest a limit for young, aggressive investors of 10–15% of personal wealth in high-risk assets, the ardent crypto evangelist offers a simpler formula.
“I would say, the money that you can afford to lose.”
Scan the QR code below to watch Dave Kendall’s full interview with Bitkub’s ‘Topp’ Jirayut on the third episode of the new Bangkok Post podcast, ‘Deeper Dive’. Or search for ‘Deeper Dive Thailand’ wherever you get your podcasts.
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