When freedom takes root in the ancient and mysterious country, reveal the current development status of Web3 in Thailand.
Written by angelilu, Foresight News
In April this year, I went to Chiang Mai to visit Garfield and Seeger, who I had met briefly in Dali before. They said that I did not catch up with the good weather. April is the hottest and most smoggy time in Thailand. It is hot and muggy. The sky also turned gray due to straw burning. But in fact, life in Thailand is very comfortable in other months. Thailand is located in the central and southern part of the Indochina Peninsula and has a tropical monsoon climate. The year is divided into three seasons: hot, rainy and cool. The average annual temperature is 27°C, with April being the hottest. Fortunately, before leaving, I experienced Chiang Mai after the rain, which was fresh and cool. Garfield said that this is the normal state of Chiang Mai.
Of course, I went there with doubts. Why are more and more crypto nomads in the Web3 industry moving to Thailand to live or even settle down? Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand have always been the top two on the "Nomad List". What are their characteristics?
Crypto-nomad’s new frontier
Garfield and Seager said that choosing to live in Chiang Mai was not a random decision, but the result of their careful consideration. From October to December 2022, Garfield and Seager set off from Hong Kong to use the near future as a digital nomad. After two months of on-site visits and research, we visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket in Thailand, and Penang in Malaysia, and finally chose Chiang Mai. They used their travel experiences to write a " Chiang Mai Guide " and share the life of digital nomads on YouTube .
With this question in mind, I started my initial exploration of the city and landed in Chiang Mai. Although Chiang Mai Airport is not big, it is close to the city center. It is very convenient to take off and land. It is not painful to take a taxi from Chiang Mai Airport. Then I went to Garfield and Seeger's big house in Hangdong, and felt the first wave of price impact. The cost of renting a 2-story villa with a yard in Chiang Mai was only a one-bedroom apartment in Shanghai. . Then he followed them to the Japanese food shop they often go to. It is hidden in a residential area and the price is affordable but the taste is amazing. Siger said, "You couldn't find a shop like this in Dali before. In addition, this place also has authentic food." Western food, Spanish food, Italian food, Mexican food, Indian food, etc.”
The impact of low prices did not stop there. After a good meal, I noticed the golf course next to it. After asking, I learned that you can enjoy a basket of golf balls for only about 20 yuan. The heat was unbearable at noon the next day, so we decided to go swimming to cool off. Surprisingly, for about 12 yuan, we could enjoy unlimited swimming in the open-air swimming pool. In Chiang Mai, everything from prices to lifestyle reveals the city’s “free” pace of life and cultural heritage.
The Summer of Wamao has made many Web3ers set foot in Dali, and even stay in Dali. Garfield and Seager also spent a long time in "Dalifornia" and communicated with many people. They say the most significant difference between Chiang Mai and Dali is the degree of internationalization and more open policies. Moreover, it is very convenient to go to Thailand from Dali, which also makes many digital nomads who stop in Dali choose to take off from Kunming to Thailand.
Indeed, another attraction of Thailand for Web3 practitioners is its convenient visa policy. You can stay for a month with a tourist visa, or you can enter the country smoothly with a visa on arrival. In addition, Thailand will implement a visa-free policy for Chinese tourists from September to the end of February next year for about five months, and they can also stay visa-free for 30 days.
I have to emphasize again that Thailand is extremely friendly to Chinese consumers. There are 711 stores everywhere that support WeChat payment. There are also many sales in large shopping malls that can speak simple Chinese. There are even product signs in three languages: Thai, Chinese and English. Chinese is above English.
In short, the relatively suitable weather, the ability to enjoy an international living environment at a lower cost of living, and the barrier-free immigration of Chinese are all attracting digital nomads to move in.
Thailand Blockchain Week just passed
Half a year has passed, and many changes have taken place in Thailand’s blockchain-related policies and status quo. Last weekend, the “Thailand Blockchain Week” was held in Bangkok. Once again, a group of crypto nomads from all over the world gathered in Thailand. Everyone is interested in the Thai blockchain. What is Chain's view, and how has it changed?
My colleague Carrie spent a week in Thailand during the event. Although it was late autumn, she was still able to wear short-sleeves in sunny weather and enjoy the warm and pleasant climate. She also celebrated her birthday there. And the trip to Thailand ended successfully with a circle of friends full of delicious food. After communicating with her, the topics of concern at the conference and surrounding activities include industry regulation and policies, the large-scale adoption of Web3, the development of tool applications, SocialFi and RWA, etc. Half of the on-site speeches and forums at the main venue were in Thai, which was very localized. At the same time, the site also attracted local KOLs, Web2 practitioners, and college students interested in the blockchain industry.
When talking about what impressed her most about the conference, Carrie said, "The investment management company XSpring Capital has a large booth at the entrance of the conference. Users can get a free cup of coffee after completing the Twitter task. Many people lined up." In addition, "The cutest booth is undoubtedly Pudgy Penguins. The staff at the booth are core members of the Pudgy Penguins Thai community. They are very enthusiastic and there are many Pudgy Penguins Holders on site." The organizer of the event is also very interesting. There was a "bull riding" challenge to see who could last the longest without being thrown off, which attracted many attendees.
Carrie had the honor to interview Sanjay Popli, co-founder and CEO of digital asset consulting and investment company Cryptomind Group Holdings at this event. Cryptomind Group Holdings is the organizer of the main event of Thailand Blockchain Week. Its companies include Merkle Capital, a digital asset management company licensed by the Thai SEC, and Cryptomind Advisory, a digital asset advisory service provider licensed by the Thai regulator.
In an interview with Sanjay Popli, co-founder and CEO of Cryptomind Group, he elaborated on the impact of blockchain technology on Thailand. Popli believes that blockchain technology has the greatest impact on financial transactions and asset management, with the Thai banking industry For example, two large banks have joined the blockchain industry (Siam Commercial Bank and Kasikornbank, which will be mentioned below), marking an important step for Thailand's financial industry to move towards innovation, security and efficiency. , can greatly enhance customer experience and make Thailand a forward-looking player in the global financial field.
In addition, Popli also mentioned the significant progress of blockchain technology in Thailand’s real estate sector, especially the launch of asset tokenization projects by two real estate development companies. Popli said, “This innovative investment method makes real estate investment more democratized and attracts more investors to participate.” Retail companies are integrating blockchain technology into loyalty points programs to increase the transparency of transactions. and security. Even in the art world, artists are beginning to use NFT platforms to display and sell their works, opening up new markets and opportunities.
Popli noted that Thailand ranks 10th in global cryptocurrency adoption according to Chainalysis’ 2023 Global Cryptocurrency Adoption Index, reflecting Thailand’s emphasis on and acceptance of blockchain technology.
When asked about the views of Thailand’s younger generation on blockchain and cryptocurrencies, Popli emphasized that young people have great enthusiasm for blockchain and cryptocurrencies. According to statistics, the Thai exchange has more than 2.9 million registered users, most of whom are between the ages of 18-25. Young people not only see the transformative potential of blockchain technology in many fields, including finance, supply chain management, healthcare, and entertainment, but also see blockchain as an innovative tool and a way to gain new career opportunities. Thai educational institutions are also gradually incorporating blockchain and cryptocurrency research courses into their courses, helping to enhance young people’s awareness and understanding.
Regarding the Web3 startup environment in Thailand, Popli said that it is largely friendly, mainly due to the clear and structured regulations established by the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These regulations provide a clear operating framework for start-ups, allowing them to develop in a stable and predictable environment. Popli also pointed out that although such a regulatory framework provides necessary guidance, for startups to continue to innovate, it is also necessary to find the right balance between regulatory needs and innovation-friendly policies. This balance is crucial to stimulating corporate innovation and maintaining healthy market development.
So what exchange do Thais use? Popli said that most Thais mainly use regulated centralized exchanges such as Bitkub and Bitazza, and the popularity of these exchanges is reflected in their huge trading volumes. For example, the year-to-date (YTD) average daily trading volume is approximately $38.46 million, indicating strong user preference for these regulated platforms. Their reliability and compliance with Thai regulations make them the first choice for many individuals involved in cryptocurrency trading and investing in Thailand.
At the same time, some experienced users will also use global crypto trading platforms such as Binance and OKX. In addition, some interviewees mentioned that the frequently used centralized exchange is Satang, and they also use decentralized exchanges (DEX) such as Uniswap and SushiSwap on a daily basis.
In addition, some interviewees said that although Web3 is developing rapidly in Thailand, there are still some limiting factors, including language barriers, lack of educational information about native Thai and understanding of blockchain technology, and this time the Thai blockchain Compared with conferences in other places, the scale of the Chain Conference is still not large, but the things discussed are closely related to the needs of the local economy and society, and are closer to the actual situation of the local market.
Current status of blockchain in Thailand
On November 10 this year, Thailand's Prime Minister and Finance Minister Saitha once again crystallized his pre-election promise, that is, the policy of issuing a digital wallet of 10,000 baht to each person after being elected. Saitha said that due to various reasons, it is impossible to "distribute wealth to all people" , instead issuing 10,000 baht digital wallets to Thai citizens over 16 years old whose monthly income is less than 70,000 baht or whose savings are less than 500,000 baht.
The new crypto-friendly prime minister served as CEO of real estate developer Sansiri, an active player in the country’s digital assets space, before entering politics. In 2021, Sansiri acquired a 15% stake in Thai digital asset services provider XSpring, which operates a cryptocurrency brokerage and licensed ICO portal in conjunction with Krungthai Bank. A year later, Sansiri launched the "SiriHub Token" on XSpring, a REIT-like structure that earns dividends from Sansiri Campus, one of the company's major development projects.
With the support of the new prime minister’s policies, Thailand’s enthusiasm for cryptocurrency participation will only increase. Generally speaking, Thailand’s policies are relatively loose on encryption supervision and encourage the development of digital currency projects. Thailand is the first to have a clear understanding of digital assets. One of the countries with laws.
Thailand’s encryption story can be traced back to 2013, 4 years after the creation of Bitcoin, during the first wave of Bitcoin exchange creation boom. From November 2013 to February 2014, a political crisis broke out in Thailand due to the amnesty bill issue. In addition, the long-term risks accumulated in the process of uneven political and economic development were gradually released through the formation and worsening of political chaos. According to an analysis report on the evolution of Thailand's political chaos at that time, overseas banks and other financial institutions adopted an attitude of strengthening strategic defense and prudent business operations in Thailand. However, according to IMF statistics, Thailand's per capita GDP in 2013 was US$5,878, three times that at the beginning of this century, indicating that Thailand had basically entered the ranks of a middle-income country at that time. The enthusiasm for national investment and the chaos in the financial system at that time pushed investors further into the wave of cryptocurrency investment. It was at that time that the first batch of crypto exchage in Thailand were born, Bxinth was established in 2013, and Satang Pro was established in 2014. established.
As of 2017, more than 100 companies in Thailand accepted BTC as payment for goods or services, attracting a large number of Thai individual investors to invest in the ICO wave of crypto projects. The more representative projects at that time included the ICO of JFIN Coin, which was supported by financial technology development projects. The pre-issued 100 million JFIN coins raised 660 million baht in the first 55 hours of the pre-issuance period. Due to the success of JFIN Coin, More than a dozen Thai companies have said they plan to launch ICOs in 2018.
Since 2018, Thailand has been gradually introducing regulations related to encryption. In March 2018, the Thai Cabinet approved the "Digital Asset Management Act", which reduced the tax rate on cryptocurrency profits to 15%; in May 2018, the "Digital Asset Business Owners Act" passed the "Digital Asset Management Act", which reduced cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens ( NFT) and other crypto-assets are considered "digital assets". This signals the Thai government’s shift towards a relaxed stance on crypto-assets. In July 2018, the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission issued the "Thailand Digital Asset Trading Guidelines". The Thai SEC allows seven cryptocurrencies used in ICOs to be traded as trading pairs, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), and Stellar Lumens (XLM).
Overheating development has attracted regulatory attention. The attitude of Thai regulatory authorities towards blockchain has also turned to tightening around 2019. In March 2021, Thailand went a step further and included stablecoins supported by currencies, assets or algorithms into the category of "digital assets". . And starting in September 2021, Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office has required local cryptocurrency exchanges to ensure that new customers are physically present before opening an account or conducting new transactions, making Thailand one of the countries with the strictest enforcement of KYC guidelines involving cryptocurrencies. , all to prevent illegal activities such as money laundering.
As of April 2022, Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has implemented a new policy that prohibits businesses from using cryptocurrencies to pay for their services or retail goods. Then in September of the same year, Thailand further strengthened supervision and explicitly prohibited encryption companies from providing pledge and lending services. These measures pose a significant challenge to Thailand’s growing crypto ecosystem.
However, with the new prime minister taking office, Thailand’s cryptocurrency regulatory environment may change again this year and move in a more friendly direction. Despite regulatory challenges, the number of players and developers in Thailand’s crypto space continues to grow, demonstrating the strong momentum in the space.
The diverse ecology of Thailand’s blockchain
Currently, there are not many local blockchain companies in Thailand, and industry development is still in its early stages. The following article will outline the development of Thailand’s blockchain ecosystem from the aspects of Thailand’s traditional industries, centralized exchanges, and popular projects.
Traditional industries enter the market
Thailand’s traditional financial institutions are actively involved in the cryptocurrency field. In November 2021, Thailand’s oldest bank, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), announced that it would acquire 51% of Bitkub’s shares for 17.85 billion baht (US$537 million), making the bank The company was valued at over $1 billion, but the deal was canceled on August 25, 2022. SCB said the reason for the cancellation was that Bitkub was filing a lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand, accusing it of engaging in insider trading.
Kasikornbank (KBank), Thailand's second largest commercial bank, announced at the end of October that it had successfully acquired a majority stake in Thailand's cryptocurrency exchange Satang for US$103 million. Satang will be renamed Orbix. K-Bank also launched a Web3 platform in September. , $100 million fund in fintech and artificial intelligence.
In addition to SCB and K-Bank, Thai energy giant Gulf has also opened a joint venture with Binance, Gulf Binance, which has also obtained Thailand’s crypto asset operator license and plans to launch operations in Thailand in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Large companies involved in Thailand also include Thailand's state-owned oil and gas group PTT, which builds a blockchain-based renewable energy platform; Monaker Group, which builds a tourism booking platform, entered the field of tokenized assets through the indirect acquisition of Thailand's ICO portal Longroot.
So far, on the website of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC), you can see its detailed classification of encryption company licenses, including digital asset exchanges, digital asset brokers, digital asset traders, digital asset fund managers, digital asset There are 7 major categories of licenses including consulting services, digital asset custody wallet providers, and ICO Portal. The following are 10 digital asset exchanges that have obtained licenses.
Crypto exchage Bitkub is Thailand’s first Web3 unicorn. It was founded in 2018 and in 2019 became one of the first exchanges to obtain a digital asset license from the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission. However, in early 2021, the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission ordered Bitkub to stop opening new accounts and asked the company to improve the delay problems in the system. In 2022, Bitkub executives were fined 8.5 million baht by the Thai SEC for insider trading. In the end, Siam Commercial Bank The acquisition deal has also been put on hold. But currently Bitkub is still the leader among local centralized exchanges in Thailand, allowing deposits and withdrawals in Thai baht. According to data, it occupies 95% of the local market in Thailand.
Popular projects in Thailand include OmiseGo, a Thai mobile payment company founded in 2014. In 2017, OmiseGo successfully raised approximately US$25 million through an initial coin offering (ICO). The company issued the Ethereum-based OMG token, marking an important step in the blockchain space.
Another project that is still active in people's vision is the oracle Band Protocol, which was founded in 2017. According to DefiLlama data, Band Protocol's current total locked value (TVL) is US$37.71 million and supports more than 20 protocols.
Atato is a Thai digital asset solutions provider that provides cryptocurrency custody applications. The program helps businesses comply with Southeast Asian digital asset regulations and securely create, store and manage digital assets.
In addition, Thailand has spawned high-quality projects in the Metaverse and NFT boom. In the field of blockchain games, the Thai gaming guild GuildFi has also made remarkable achievements. The blockchain game "Axie Infinity" was launched on GuildFi and became the cornerstone of the development of the P2E platform. GuildFi has also received approximately US$100 million in funding from global investors in its second round of financing and is seen as a strong contender as Thailand's next unicorn company. NFT trading markets like Knowhere.art have also emerged during the NFT craze.
Although Thailand’s blockchain media industry is still in its early stages of development, blockchain content platforms mainly in Thai, such as SiamBlockchain and Bitcoin Addict, can better promote the popularization of local blockchain knowledge and international cooperation, making up for the above The language barrier was mentioned. It is particularly worth mentioning that my colleague Carrie visited Bitcoin Addict’s newly relocated office in Dragon Mart, Bangkok. This building is not only unique in design, but also full of "humanistic features."
In addition, there are many active crypto communities in Thailand, which serve as a gathering place for cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiasts, such as the shared office space "Yellow" on Ningman Road in Chiang Mai; For example, it is not only a shared workspace, but also acts as a Web3 startup incubator. In addition, crypto co-living practice communities such as 4seas, 706 Chiang Mai and Muchiangmai also regularly hold various crypto-related gatherings and sharing sessions. These events provide a wealth of networking and collaboration opportunities for crypto practitioners, promote offline exchanges within the industry, and provide a platform to find potential partners.
Finally, if you want to give a piece of advice to those who want to join the Web3 digital nomads in Thailand or seek identity and cultural integration in the era of globalization, Garfield and Seeger, the directors of 4seas Chiang Mai, said: "Going overseas, living in Thailand, digital nomads or Of course, immigrants can experience the vastness of the world and different lives, but it also means that you have to learn to be a qualified global citizen. Although everyone in the world may not have the same views and positions, respect others and learn to treat others with the same attitude. Understanding others emotionally is the first step. Learn the local customs, culture and laws, understand the differences, and be respectful. I think this is the most important advice.”
The direction and impact of Thailand’s political chaos - February 2014 Global Regional Risk Monthly Report