back to article Vietnam bans Bitcoin as payment for anything

The State Bank of Vietman has issued “Information related to the use of virtual currency” that bans use of the cryptocurrency for payments. It won't say why, and doesn't explicitly ban mining or blockchain. The Bank lists conventional payment mechanisms like cheques, payment orders and credit cards as permitted, but then adds …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be honest, it makes especially sense for a small country to avoid having too much of its economy depending on Bitcoin. Considering it can easily double or lose half of its value in a few months, you get so much volatility that it becomes toxic. I don't even think you need to be a single-party, control freak dictatorship to be worried about it.

    1. inmypjs Silver badge

      "too much of its economy depending on Bitcoin"

      Lol

      Bitcoin is mostly used to avoid taxes and the law. There is sense in all countries banning its use, just the less dictatorial ones can't get away with it.

      1. JaitcH

        The Main Reason Are The Crooked Promoters In VN

        Bitcoins have been foisted on the public for several years.

        They promote data mining as a get rich quick system and this is one of the reasons to protect gullible 'investors'.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please enlighten me.

    My imagination is drawing a blank here. I can not imagine a single reason why someone would want to use anonymous fund transfers, bar of course :

    - illicit activities (i.e. breaking the law), or

    - activities prohibited by a 'repressive regime', which is actually the same as above, with possibly different moral implications.

    I'm sure there must be valid arguments, but I'm failing to come uw with any. So please help out.

    Pete

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Please enlighten me.

      I'm totally with you. The sooner they stamp out paper* money and coins, the quicker we'll solve their use in crime. Pretty sure that's what you meant by anonymous fund transfers.

      *or polymer

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: Please enlighten me.

        > "The sooner they stamp out paper* money and coins, the quicker we'll solve their use in crime."

        Indeed, physical money is often used as a way to evade tax. Really there should be a stamp duty on the issuance of it to encourage card payments and to offset the tax dodging.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Please enlighten me.

          "Indeed, physical money is often used as a way to evade tax. Really there should be a stamp duty on the issuance of it to encourage card payments and to offset the tax dodging."

          “the beauty of cash is that it’s a direct and simple transaction between all kinds of different people, no matter how rich or poor.”

          "But perhaps the greatest beauty of cash is that it is one of the last remaining things that gives people a small semblance of privacy, anonymity, and personal freedom in their increasingly controlled and surveyed lives."

          https://wolfstreet.com/2017/01/28/europe-limits-on-cash-transactions-war-on-cash/

          https://wolfstreet.com/2017/01/28/europe-limits-on-cash-transactions-war-on-cash/

      2. sabba

        Re: Please enlighten me.

        Your point is valid, which is why most countries want people to adopt bank transfers rather than use cash payments. I would also argue, perhaps tenuously, that cash payments are perhaps slightly easier to track than BitCoins (if you raid a premise and find 200k of undisclosed cash you can probably be sure that something dodgy is going on; with a similar amount of BC you'd probably not even be aware).

      3. JaitcH
        FAIL

        Re: Please enlighten me. STAMP OUT PAPER MONEY?

        THAT will never happen in VN!

        We have coins but Vietnamese HATE them with a vengeance. I carry coins and when I offer to pay for parking in coins they usually refuse to accept it. FREE PARKING!

        Unfortunately my daughter started saving for her university at a young age and collected every coin she could lay her hands on and put them in a large wooden box.

        The problem is that banks expect coins to be deposited wrapped in coin wrappers. Solved that problem - I pay my condominium fees in coins! Easy for me to count - I weigh them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please enlighten me.

      Privacy maybe?

      Many of the things you would want to use it for are private but not illegal, and why should every transaction be tracable back to a person? cash is not tracable...

      One good example is you don't want that big christmas gift you brought for your wife to appear on your bank statement as she's more likely to read the statement than you are!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Please enlighten me.

        "One good example is you don't want that big Christmas gift you brought for your wife to appear on your bank statement"

        You are clearly more generous than me, or perhaps haven't been married as long. As bitcoin transaction fees are currently running at about $40 per transaction you must be spending a lot on her to make that fee seem acceptable.

        1. Martijn Otto

          Re: Please enlighten me.

          Where did you get the funny idea about the transaction costs? You are expected to pay a small percentage in transaction fees to ensure the transaction goes through smoothly. It will only ever be so high if you are doing a very big transaction. You can decide the transaction fee yourself and the average seems to be about 0.01 % nowadays.

          To reach a fee of $ 40 with that fee percentage you would have to gift your wife something of $ 400,000. Talk about generous!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Please enlighten me.

            "Where did you get the funny idea about the transaction costs?" ...... from https://blockchain.info/stats.

            The average transaction cost today is $40.73 which is 0.014% of the average transaction and close enough to your figure of 0.01%. However as you point out you decide the transaction fee yourself as a incentive the miner to include your transaction in the block he is mining. It is false to think of it being related to the sum being transferred. Miners currently earn 13.39% of their income from transaction fees. They do this by putting the transactions with the highest fees (and smallest size) into the block as this maximizes their income. Block size is limited so transactions with big fees are going to be included in a block first. Yesterday the mempool of transactions waiting to get included in a block peaked at 40000. This equates to about 16 blocks full of transactions, each block taking 10 minutes to mine, whilst other transactions are constantly arriving. A $40 fee makes your transaction go through in reasonable time.

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Please enlighten me.

              The average transaction cost today is $40.73 which is 0.014% of the average transaction

              So you're saying the average transaction is over $29,000?! That doesn't sound too practical for day to day use!

        2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Please enlighten me.

          Or maybe we're just not full of shit?

          Here's a couple of sites that will give you an estimate of the fees for a transaction. It's $2-$4 at the moment depending how quickly you want it verified.

          https://bitcoinfees.21.co/

          https://bitcoinfees.info/

          Since you're posting AC, I presume that your objection is actually based on personal views, rather than any of those dull fact things. I'm basing this on your need to make up facts or make factor of 10 errors in order to support a conclusion.

          In the future, I'd suggest a quick google, or counting the zeros. Or just that your answer doesn't make sense, so perhaps the calculations might be in error.

      2. Kernel Silver badge

        Re: Please enlighten me.

        "One good example is you don't want that big christmas gift you brought for your wife mistress to appear on your bank statement as she's your wife is more likely to read the statement than you are!"

        FTFY - maybe not quite a good basis for a lasting marriage, but certainly not illegal in most countries.

    3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Re: Please enlighten me.

      " I can not imagine a single reason why someone would want to use anonymous fund transfers"

      Bitcoin is not inherently anonymous. Monero is (by design), and you can use various forms of transactions (tumblers, transferring balance between exchanges) to mask your activities with various amounts of success, but it's not inherently hidden.

      You might notice that for the various ransomware stories, even non-tech journalists can work out how much money has arrived at a particular wallet, hence the reporting on exactly how much has been extorted.

      As for usage, for all the whining about various aspects of it, I have yet to be conned or left out of pocket by a BTC transaction. As compared to about 5% of sales using credit cards or Paypal. It's pretty much the same as cash in terms of cashflow, so is preferable to people paying on account. So from my perspective as a seller it's *more* safe than anything other than cash in hand. Even bank transfers can be pulled back in certain circumstances. If you sell services then you have almost no protection against chargebacks.

      I would advise being very careful about where the thought that "is used for illegal activity" line of reasoning takes you. Criminals use many otherwise legitimate things, but we don't criminalise them unless they are used in a crime. Dollars, euros or pounds are used for more criminal activity than all crypto combined. Oh, and finding the actual beneficiary of a bank account when they have made an effort to obscure it is often harder than finding a crypto wallet, and will have greater legal protections.

  3. Solarflare
    Angel

    Fines of around US$9,000 apply to those who accept or offer payments in virtual currencies.

    Wow, that's pretty steep...Can you pay the fine in Bitcoin?

  4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    What is it with (mostly) single party states and crimps on cryptocurrency?

    As an old Pirelli advert said: "Power is Nothing Without Control".

    Single and Single-ish party states exercise very heavy control over the economy via a combination of monetary and fiscal policy. It works only because the exchange rates and prices goods (at the very least for key commodities) are fixed. Anything that allows to bypass this mechanism faces the full power of the repressive state apparatus, because it challenges the state power by eroding its control.

    Doubly so if it is relatively anonymous so that the state cannot trace transaction originators.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It seems to work in other places too...

      For instance, who would want to push out the current "establishment", who encourages people to get into debt, reduces the cost of the debt, but now holds everyone to "ransom", in fear they up the rates over night and put people on the street?

    2. JaitcH
      WTF?

      Re: What is it with (mostly) single party states and crimps on cryptocurrency?

      As someone who lives in VietNam, I should explain the LAW states that ONLY VN DONG may be used for transactions in VietNam.

      This applies to ALL transactions, regardless of the total transaction value.

      Try spending a Pound in the USA or even a Euro. Nor strange after all and nothing to do with politics.

      I would also point out there are NO [goods (at the very least for key commodities) are fixed] other than electricity and certain drugs. Petrol / gas is at world prices and adjusted as required - often two or three times a month.

      Drugs are bought WHOLESALE on the international market and distributed through government pharmacies to poor people. Wealthier people buy their drugs from retail pharmacies BUT the prices have fixed percentile profit mark-ups.

      I am apolitical but please understand VN is a SOCIALIST country, like Denmark, except for the National Party. If you ever travel here you will see that the whole country is VERY MUCH a CAPITALIST economy.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How am I going to pay for my poontang now?

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      I find they're happy enough when I get my dong out.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "tracability of money against right to privacy" what went wrong

    Where it is possible to move money around without it being traceable then criminals will use it, not just for big money like from drugs but small stuff like ransomware.

    Now if it were impossible for the mark to pass money to a criminal would there be any point kidnapping both data or your loved ones or selling drugs etc. The fact that the crimes still exists shows that attempting to limit it is useless given that the means of moving value around are limitless.

    When you consider bitcoin and it's growth in popularity it would suggest that sufficient people are writing off the "protection" of traceable money against the benefit of presumed increase in privacy. They may wish to do something proscribed by local laws or it might be that they are just annoyed with the local authorities reading over their shoulder and selling/releasing the data. Then add in the decreasing connection between "official cash" and any real commodity and you end up with bitcoin being just as meaningful but without the increasingly glaring state payoffs.

    The internet used to be much more anonymous place but that anonymity has disappeared because of laws created to combat the massively advertised, fear of the wrong people having unlimited access to communications and to protect exhibitionists from themselves (anti-pedophiles read next section before posting).

    If our police and spy agencies had any sense then they would have just kept their heads down so they could intercept/monitor and identify for prosecution via traditional evidence but the official's desire to censor their neighbor overrode everything and those negative channels used to distribute exploitation have gone under the radar. Now the censorship is only monitoring the naive and innocent.

    That the attempts to limit all the perceived negative uses of technology was in noway effective along with the actual damage to all the positive uses shows just how stupid and resource wasting these efforts at censorship have been. Only the amateurs are ever going to be limited and all the efforts make for less and less amateurs and more dissatisfaction.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: "tracability of money against right to privacy" what went wrong

      Wrong argument and wrong issue my friend.

      In a Single Party system you are not supposed to be rich unless you are of the appropriate rank in the party.

      Traceability of transactions in such societies serve as a check to ensure that Joe Average has not accumulated wealth beyond the level he is allowed to have for his caste and position of his strata in the social system. It is theocracy taken to the extreme - with caste system and complete and full integration of church and state. There is a reason why the Soviet posters said: "We BELIEVE in the Bright Future of Communism"(*). Workers, priests, high priests and on top of them the aristocracy(**).

      The moment you show wealth you were not supposed to have in the ex-soviet block you are reported to the local shaman, sorry communist party secretary and your house is raided, because earthly riches are sinful (unless they are a dacha of a central committee member of course).

      (*)If you have read the holy teachings, the Marx and Engels manifesto of the Communist Party reads like a utopian dream (very similar to some early Christianity teachnings with stuff outright plagiarized from the Sermon on the Mount in places), the Das Capital first volume mostly makes sense, second goes into WTF land and third is definitely completely into the surreal. To accept anything beyond that like Lenin syphilitic drivel and the crap concocted on top of it in the following 70 years you need to fervently BELIEVE. Your BELIEF needs to be at the level a monk believes in the tears of the Madonna on the fresco in the cathedral being real and not damp condensate. At the level the evangelicals believe in Rapture. And beyond.

      (**)State Religions do not tolerate competition - this is why Communism was persecuting other religions with such fervour. It is something which the western historians hate to admit too as it may insult some of the local fanatics.

    2. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: "tracability of money against right to privacy" what went wrong

      "When you consider bitcoin and it's growth in popularity it would suggest"

      Its growth in popularity is a speculative bubble.

    3. scrubber
      Paris Hilton

      Re: "tracability of money against right to privacy" what went wrong

      Law enforcement think using cash to pay for coffee is suspicious so it's no wonder they have concerns about cryptocurrency.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/14/fbi-perfect-terrorist-coffee-cash_n_1276494.html

  7. David Roberts Silver badge

    Interesting that India

    Who recently had a crackdown on paper currency which was running the hidden economy seem perfectly O.K. with bitcoin and the like.

    Is this about the internal hidden economy or about exporting currency?

  8. Rob D.

    Tulips again

    Governments like Vietnam and China, and eventually the more liberal governments, apply controls on Bitcoin for two reasons. First, there is a liquid market out there which permits the exchange between Bitcoin (and other cryptos) and fiat currencies (dollar, euro, yen, etc). Second, it is possible to carry out that exchange independent of the existing financial regulatory frameworks, especially as it relates to transactions spanning multiple jurisdictions.

    The more totalitarian regimes will apply heavy controls first (buyer cease) then regulate as they are more concerned about the systemic social risks to power; the more liberal regimes will provide warnings and protections first (buyer beware) then regulate as these are more geared to allowing people to make their own good or bad choices.

    Right now the perceived value ascribed to Bitcoin or any crypto currency, is no better than the tulip bubble of the 17C - it is worth what you can persuade anyone else to give you for it. Some people will get very rich; others will lose a lot of money; but it is still the same mania right now. The main difference from tulips is that the technology under these cryptos is going to stay and will have a place in our financial systems going forward - just unlikely to be any of the current 'popular' ones.

    1. sabba

      Re: Tulips again

      And surely the fact that BC can be mined implies that there's a system of perpetual quantitive easing in place. Since I am not familiar with the processes by which new BCs can be introduced without them devaluing the existing ones so I am prepared to be corrected here.

      1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Tulips again

        The system lets you mine bitcoins till the total number of bitcoins reaches 21 million. After that, thats it. 21 million is your lot. No more mining. Coins are mined nearly once every 10 mins. Not much quicker and not much slower. If more mining power gets put on the network, 2 weeks after that the network makes mining more difficult to compensate. If everone stopped mining for 2 weeks, mining would become so easy you can do it on an old laptop again. The network regulates itself to mine a block every 10 mins as best it can. At certain points the coins created when mining a block are halved. It used to be 50 coins per block, now it is 25. Eventually when we are close to the 21 million limit, transaction fees will over take the value of mining the coins!

        All these rules were put in place by bitcoins creator to encourage certain uses and behaviors. A currency that has no limit, like the pound suffers from inflation. Gold however doesnt. It has a limited supply and although can fluctuate greatly due to mining efforts (see the similarity here) its still limited. Bitcoin was supposed to work like digital gold.

        Money will then be earned by transaction fees alone, and bitcoins can be subdivided by up to 8 decimal places. So no matter how much a whole coin is worth you dont need to own or trade in a whole coin, ever.

      2. Bill Michaelson

        Re: Tulips again

        "And surely the fact that BC can be mined implies that there's a system of perpetual quantitive easing in place. Since I am not familiar with the processes by which new BCs can be introduced without them devaluing the existing ones so I am prepared to be corrected here."

        Surely not. The absolute cap is 21 million coins, expected to be reached in about two decades. About 60-70% have already been mined. Inherently deflationary. I assume you don't hold any.

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Tulips again

      "it is worth what you can persuade anyone else to give you for it"

      Which is exactly as every stock market on the planet works, thus how every currency works. Bitcoin is only more volatile due to its age and amount of use. The euro wasnt the most stable currency when it came out and even in recent years it has destroyed countries like Greece! I'm glad as a teenage brit in the 90's I was firmly against joining that train wreck of a currency.

      A bitcoin is like an orange. Worth only what someone wants to pay for it. If everyone starts hating orange oranges and wants green ones (reference to recent news), orange oranges are not going to be worth much.

      One thing that Bitcoin has over tulips or oranges is: you cant sow them. Just like a currency based on leaves, everyone can become stinking rich when they realise they can grow loads of tulip bulbs. But bitcoin, well seeing as there can only ever be 21 million of them, no more, ever, are certainly in a limited supply. If they retain a value, seeing a whole bitcoin may become quite a rare thing in the future!

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Tulips again

      Bitcoins and their volatility are nothing like tulips and tulip mania. For starters, if you have a tulip bulb, in 6 months you can have many tulip bulbs, and no-one was using tulip bulbs as commodity to facilitate trade, the trade was in tulip futures.

      Bitcoins are more like gold. There is a quantity already found, and with ever increasing mining costs, we can find a few more. Gold mainly is only worth something if other people desire it; its value mostly depends on whether investors

      Bitcoin is mainly used as a transaction aid - people buy bitcoins in order to pay people in bitcoins, people receive bitcoins in trade and convert to fiat. In this scenario, volatility is irrelevant, because both buyer and seller immediately convert to fiat.

      For this sole reason, bitcoins will always have utility in trade, which makes them desirable, which gives them value. The only way it could be a bubble, and thus collapse, is if either they suddenly become non desirable, or if more are produced than expected.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Tulips again

        You missed other reasons it could become a bubble - if people stop using it, either because of governments cracking down against it (which is already happening) or because of a loss of confidence due to exchanges or wallets being hacked (which has happened before, and will surely continue to happen)

        Bitcoin has first mover advantage but there are no barriers to entry for similar "currencies" to exist, as Litecoin, Dogecoin and so forth have demonstrated. A crisis in confidence in those will impact Bitcoin as well, though the specific circumstances would dictate whether that leads to more or less confidence in Bitcoin.

        1. Bill Michaelson

          Re: Tulips again

          "You missed other reasons it could become a bubble - if people stop using it, either because of governments cracking down against it (which is already happening) or because of a loss of confidence due to exchanges or wallets being hacked (which has happened before, and will surely continue to happen)

          "Bitcoin has first mover advantage but there are no barriers to entry for similar "currencies" to exist, as Litecoin, Dogecoin and so forth have demonstrated. A crisis in confidence in those will impact Bitcoin as well, though the specific circumstances would dictate whether that leads to more or less confidence in Bitcoin."

          This seem accurate. Bitcoin, interestingly, has no pretense of underlying value. Its value is purely based on abstraction, that of people's faith in its value. Ironically, that might be its greatest strength as compared to other stores of value.

  9. Pete 2

    dodgy dealings

    > Virtual currencies' represent a threat to command economies that such regimes find hard to tolerate

    Well, apart from the possibility of their users losing their shirts as the massive fluctuations in value continue. There is the pretty obvious reason that the anonymity afforded by these transactions defraud the government of tax income. Add to that, BTC transactions also facilitate illegal purchases, as well as enabling the spending of ill-gotten gains - for example from cyber attacks and exploiting their victims.

    The only legitimate use that comes to mind is to reduce the commissions and fees for FOREX deals. But again, those could easily be conduits for circumventing state's restrictions on foreign currency dealings: whether for good reasons or bad.

    As for why one-party states are more likely to make such pronouncements? Being one-party states, it's a dam' sight easier for them to say and to be able to enforce.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: dodgy dealings

      @pete2 "defraud the government of tax income", if you have cash to buy bitcoin then presumably you have already paid income tax or is this another one like pensions that were taxed as the money was earned and again on the interest and again when you finally get it back.

      The question is really who, is committing the fraud here

      1. Pete 2

        Re: dodgy dealings

        > @pete2 "defraud the government of tax income",

        If you had a business that only accepted BTC and you were then able to use that "money" to buy all your worldly needs, it would be untraceable and therefore untaxable. The business would also be unaccountable - literally - and could deal illegally without fear of being found out.

        The beneficiary of such a scheme would therefore avoid company taxes and income taxes, thus defrauding the government of the taxes that everyone else rightfully pays.

        1. sabba

          Re: dodgy dealings

          Would also be a great way to lauder your dirty 'cash'.

        2. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: dodgy dealings

          If you had a business that only accepted BTC and you were then able to use that "money" to buy all your worldly needs, it would be untraceable and therefore untaxable.

          Do you understand what the blockchain is? It contains every transaction ever made in bitcoin, from any party to any other party. The idea that bitcoin is untraceable is laughable.

        3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: dodgy dealings

          "If you had a business that only accepted CASH and you were then able to use that "money" to buy all your worldly needs, it would be untraceable and therefore untaxable. The business would also be unaccountable - literally - and could deal illegally without fear of being found out."

          I've replaced BTC with cash. Notice how it's the exact same problem, yet somehow we manage to tax cash only businesses, and also catch people who are operating illegal businesses too.

          Having a legitimate business that *only* accepts BTC is tricky, as you are usually obligated to accept the local currency. But having one that only accepts cash is perfectly legal.

          If you're really keen on avoiding taxes then an accountant will give you a far better result than crypto.

  10. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    It is a Pity that some of the People Posting Have Never Been To VietNam

    1. The use of ANY currency other than the DONG for transactions within VN is ILLEGAL;

    2. Virtual currencies have been used to defraud people here;

    3. Any country without control of it's own currency cannot plan it's own economy. Cambodia has Rial AND the Dollar and the result is Cambodia cannot control inflation, etc;

    4. Only electricity and drugs have government controlled prices;

    5. The lowest denomination coin /note is D200 which is 0.006GBP (or 1 Penny gets you 30 Dong). This demonstrates the total impracticability of Bitcoin;

    6. Major Foreign currencies can be purchased at banks and jewellery stores;

    7. VietNam is a Socialist country - like Denmark. The difference between China and VietNam is stark - China really, really knows how to keep the population under control;

    8. We can see anything on the InterNet, unlike the UK, except for a few crazy web sites in California and Texas who slander the government;

    9. We have country-wide 4G and 100 Mbyte InterNet is common - even in the boondocks;

    10. Traffic Police must not hide when performing their duties such as radar speed checking, etc;

    11. We even have Amateur radio enthusiasts as well as over 120-million cell handsets (and 90-million citizens);

    12 Foreigners enjoy most of the benefits in the Civil Code of Practice.

    Come and visit and get a surprise!

    P.S. I was born, and lived, in the UK.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is a Pity that some of the People Posting Have Never Been To VietNam

      Agree.

      This may be a result of a university in Hanoi recently saying they would accept bitcoin in payment.

      Historically, Vietnamese people don't trust the banks. That is mainly older people now, but a huge amount of commerce still happens in cash. It's alot more free in many ways than the UK.

      Also while the law says you have to pay for everything in Dong (which is actually good, it makes things clear), you will find lots of tourist based businesses will quietly take dollars for convenience.

      So long as its all mostly going to plan, the government or police don't get involved.

      I would recommend it to anyone ... you'll be surprised.

  11. Sam90

    Microsoft Rеѕumеѕ Bіtсоіn Pауmеntѕ http://cryptodetail.com/page/microsoft-re%D1%95ume%D1%95-bitsoin-paument%D1%95-after-halt-over-instability

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