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Government denies rumours of national cryptocurrency

Blockchain-based technology can be used for reducing costs associated with interbank lending, in addition to facilitating digital assets and cryptocurrencies. Photo supplied
Blockchain-based technology can be used for reducing costs associated with interbank lending, in addition to facilitating digital assets and cryptocurrencies. Photo supplied

Government denies rumours of national cryptocurrency

Government officials today shot down rumours that Cambodia would be issuing its own national cryptocurrency, despite international media coverage and a high-profile government official’s plan to attend an event organized by the company responsible for the claims.

A firm called Entapay issued a press release on March 2 announcing the Asean Blockchain Summit would be held at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh tomorrow. The press release says that “following Venezuela's lead, other countries have been trying to issue legal digital tender, including Cambodia”, and announces deputy prime minister Men Sam An as the event’s keynote speaker.

Hak Hout, a spokesman for Ms. Sam An’s office, confirmed her attendance and said she was invited by Entapay. He said it was “normal” for the deputy prime minister to attend such an event as a representative of the government.

News of the summit quickly spread to multiple bitcoin-related news websites and was picked up by UK-based newspaper The Telegraph, which said that Cambodia was “expected to follow Venezuela with plans for a national cryptocurrency.”

But representatives from the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) and Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) denied those claims today, saying that the government was not involved in the summit or with Entapay, and that there were no plans to develop a national cryptocurrency.

“NBC's stance on cryptocurrency remains the same: we consider this to be a risky instrument and do not encourage the public to get involved, or do so at their own risk,” said Chea Serey, director general of the central bank.

Sok Dara, deputy director general of the SECC, also said that his agency had never approved the project.

“We never recognized or offered any approval for any trading in cryptocurrency in Cambodia,” Dara said. “We still remind the public to be cautious of the high risk of cryptocurrency, because it is still unregulated.”

Entapay has almost no digital footprint prior to its March 2 announcement. Many of the attendees listed on the summit’s website also could not be found through online searches, including the only two organizations that appear to be related to Cambodia -- the Cambodian Blockchain Industry Development Association and the China Commerce in Cambodia Association.

Three local cryptocurrency entrepreneurs also reported being in the dark about the event, and said they had not heard of Entapay before the March 2 press release.

Vladimir Nodzak, the co-founder of Codingate who recently launched a Cambodian blockchain initiative, said he found aspects of the event odd.

“Cryptocurrencies are a lot about a great marketing,” he said, noting the company had gotten the word out about its event. “However the event has "Asean" in its name, but the supporters' logos and guests seem to mainly be from or related to China and [Hong Kong]… I would expect more Cambodians to be involved when presenting a National Crypto.”

Tickets for the summit are listed as $300 on the event’s website, while VIP tickets were listed at $600.

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