Recent incidents concerning the domain name of Vietnam’s largest bitcoin exchange have highlighted the risks of operating a profitable business in certain regions. Authorities have reportedly moved to seize Bitcoin Vietnam’s internet domain, claiming its news and updates section is in breach of laws banning unlicensed news and social networks.
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Domain Dispute May Have Other Origins
Bitcoin Vietnam has operated since 2014 and has always considered co-operation with relevant authorities an integral part of its business. In fact, attempting to defy regulators anywhere is a risky exercise — even in advanced economies like the U.S. and Japan.
Bitcoin Vietnam CEO and founder Nguyen Tran Bao Phuong revealed in an interview with Vietnam’s official parliamentary TV station Truyền Hình Quốc hội that the company had received a warning notice last month. Since Bitcoin Vietnam publishes roughly two blog posts a month, it seems the unlicensed social network accusation is a cover for some ulterior motive.
However when asked if the move was a rogue attempt to seize a profitable business for personal gain, Phuong said “I’d prefer not to comment on that.”
Bitcoin Vietnam has faced other tribulations over the past four years, including past statements by central bank and other government officials suggesting Bitcoin itself might be illegal. However the business was always allowed to keep operating by remaining transparent and a visibly responsible corporate citizen that communicated regularly with officialdom.
Bitcoin Promotes Financial Inclusion Where It’s Needed Most
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency proponents often tout its economic benefits in underserved markets, and Vietnam fits that category. The World Bank has prioritized the country as one of 25 in need of attention to increase financial inclusion, with 50 million of its population considered “unbanked” and only 31 percent of its adults able to access financial services in 2014. That’s low even for the Southeast Asian region.
However as many in other such markets — for example Venezuela, China and Ukraine — have discovered, those whose policies make bitcoin a viable alternative to the “formal” economy also tend to be the most eager to block that alternative.
“While we generally have a love for our home country, want to contribute to develop it further and build a better future for our children — I am also a businesswoman,” Phuong said.
“We planned some serious investments into the Vietnamese market this year and providing employment to a few more dozen young Vietnamese by end of the year in one of the world’s fastest growing high-tech sectors. We don’t like the — still occurring — brain drain of Vietnam’s best talent to overseas tech firms and opportunities and hoped to set a counterpoint there.”
The obvious solution for Bitcoin Vietnam in these circumstances would be to use a “.com” domain, registered outside the country. But the current domain has four years of marketing and recognition, and the BitcoinVietnam.com domain is already taken. Moreover, switching is a Band-Aid solution at best — there are still many other ways a determined local authority could interfere with a company’s business.
Should the problems continue, the company may be forced to do what several Chinese cryptocurrency exchanges have done and move to a more accommodating jurisdiction. It’s far from ideal, though and (like China) would severely limit access to customers via local bank accounts.
Bitcoin Vietnam would also prefer to remain in the country and play a role in educating the local population about blockchain and its benefits. Its operators are hoping more rational heads in the government will take notice, and realize the economic advantages of supporting technological (and financial) innovation.
Can bitcoin overcome the frequent local resistance that blocks its success? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Pixabay, Bitcoin Vietnam