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Thai Authorities Prepare Illegal Crypto Crackdown as CBDC Plans Move Forward

In Thailand, law enforcement and government authorities have begun a nationwide campaign to crack down on drug and money laundering networks. According to a recent report from AFP News, authorities in the country have launched operations to break up drug syndicates across the country. One particular area where interest is high is on their financial networks.

Breaking Up Drug Syndicates 

The report pointed out that the government caught a bit of a glimpse of how extensive criminal networks’ money laundering operations are after a recent meth bust. The bust was made on an unnamed group, which AFP News claims is tied to Daoreung Somseang – a local who is already in custody in a Bangkok prison after she was found guilty of drug trafficking offenses. 

Per the report, the meth organization had laundered tens of millions of dollars in drug profits through several industries. These include construction, oil, and gold. However, authorities fear that there’s still more for them to uncover despite the numerous revelations. Lieutenant-General Wissanu Prasarttong-Osoth — the assistant to Thailand’s police chief —  reportedly conceded that it would be almost impossible to discover how much these organizations make.

For one, most of these companies use their profits to bankroll the activities of other industries – including overseas real estate. Narcotics organizations also have a high propensity to invest in liquid assets, such as luxury goods and cryptocurrencies.

Thai Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin pointed out that law enforcement authorities had so far identified “irregular” flows in bank accounts worth about $5.4 billion. The authorities believe about $400 million of these funds belong to drug cartels.

Thai law enforcement authorities expect to burn confiscated drugs with a worth of $1.7 billion before the end of the week. This follows an operation where they burned a narcotics batch worth $800 million.

Thailand Wants to Have it Both Ways

It’s still unclear how Thai authorities plan to crack down on these money laundering measures or if they would impose any stringent regulations on digital assets. However, recent occurrences in the country have put the prospect of an outright crypto ban into perspective.

This month, the Bank of Thailand announced that it had begun a pilot program for a possible Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). An official statement from the financial regulator confirmed that it is working towards a CBDC payment system for all businesses. However, it wants to test it for large-scale enterprises first.

Thus, the bank partnered with the Siam Cement Group – Thailand’s largest cement and building materials provider – and local Fintech giant Digital Ventures Company Limited. The pilot will begin next month and conclude at the end of the year. Following the pilot, the bank will test the CBDC payment’s viability and work to integrate it with other businesses.

Still, a possible crypto ban is in the works. Thailand could follow in the footsteps of China, which is also on the fast track to developing a CBDC but has instituted a sweeping crackdown on crypto businesses.

The belief that a country looking to develop a CBDC can’t abolish cryptocurrencies has been refuted once. Thailand could go it again. 

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