A Bitcoin exchange in Thailand says it has suspended trading after officials declared the virtual currency illegal.
The company overseeing Bitcoins in the country said the Thai central bank had informed it on Monday that it was illegal to trade Bitcoins, move them in or out of the country, or use them to buy or sell goods or services.
Despite wild swings in value the virtual currency has been inching towards broader acceptance. Atlanta-based BitPay handles Bitcoin transactions for more than 4,500 companies, taking payments in Bitcoins and forwarding the cash equivalent to the vendor involved.
The statement said Bitcoin had applied to the Bank of Thailand for a money exchange licence as part of efforts in the past several months to ensure it was operating lawfully in the country.
The central bank had no immediate comment.
Bitcoins are created, distributed and authenticated independently of any bank or government. The currency’s cryptography makes it almost immune from counterfeiting and its relative anonymity holds out the promise of being able to spend money across the internet without scrutiny.
Vitalik Buterin, a writer for Bitcoin Magazine, said: “Thailand is not exactly a bastion of liberty. This may influence it [China] to take a harsher stance on Bitcoin as well.”