What’s Bitkub’s problem? Born too soon or existing too controversially?
If Jirayut Srupsrisopa is a true blockchain enthusiast, he must be uncorking the champagne when that massively-lucrative deal with the Siam Commercial Bank collapsed a few days ago. In an ideal blockchain world, he should not have gone anywhere near a bank or even the stock market to begin with.
For starters, blockchain was intended and is being constantly designed and tweaked to bypass or minimize centralization in the hands of governments and banks. Bitcoin is blockchain’s necessary by-product that could hopefully supersede mainstream currencies including even the US dollar one day.
Why blockchain? Power corrupts and monetary or financial power can corrupt absolutely. Governments and banks can collude to print banknotes beyond limits, for example, and devalue the affected currencies and cause inflations. With decentralization and multiple monitors in a perfect blockchain system, such collusion is next to impossible. Actually, many people wonder what would happen regarding America’s subprime crisis if the staggering bailout effort had not been solely up to the US government or had been scrutinized blockchain-style.
So, blockchain’s original purpose is excellent. But like every well-intended innovation, there are two sides to every coin. Jirayut (Topp), founder and Group CEO of Bitkub Capital Group Holdings., Ltd., a highly-popular blockchain and digital asset group of companies in Thailand, might have found that, in order to supplant the financial and monetary status quo, it was necessary for him to penetrate its people and mingle with them first.
Necessary it may have been, but it’s very ironic all the same. The list of people and organizations he has had to deal closely with includes stock authorities and banks. The share market? It can defeat blockchain’s founding principle of transparency. Government regulators? Likewise. It kills blockchain’s main doctrine of anti-centralization and pro-decentralization. In other words, he needed the status quo to endorse something created to terminate it.
Bitcoin requires large-scale public involvement for it to work. This might explain Jirayut’s active promotion through various channels and his targetting of young people allegedly including even school children. But, also, bitcoin is digital money whose value must be “as true as possible.” That kind of honesty is at the heart of whether it will succeed or fail. Stock markets frequently distort values. Full stop.
So, Bitkub might have come around too early, which made the ironies impossible to avoid. To be fair to Jirayut, he did ask the Thai government to help the public gain increased knowledge about the monetary tomorrow. In a very recent speech for an economic forum focusing on the future trading and technology, he said, rather controversially: “Thailand must change from the tourism promotion or the Amazing Thailand campaign which has been a backwater over the past 20 years. We should become a digital hub and the government must promote the idea and start building foundations for the digital economy now. We must end the old-fashioned economy and give importance to the digital economy. Strong foundations [of the digital economy] will bring about prosperity.”
Many considered the statement to be too offensive, but he apparently did try. He was right about insufficient knowledge among Thais, but the whole world is the same. A vast, overwhelming majority of the global population still doesn’t get bitcoin.
That’s giving Jirayut’s company the benefit of the doubt. Critics, however, charge that youngsters or adults lacking knowledge of how it works have been taken big advantage of. Those critics consider the sharply rising “values” of Jirayut’s “assets” as suspicious because a ballooning wealth should not have been associated with transparent and honest activities that blockchain and bitcoins are supposed to ensure. They don’t like the fact that Jirayut has become obscenely rich with the type of money idealistic blockchain advocates look down on.
Several analysts view Jirayut’s Amazing Thailand speech as a swansong. The decision by SCB Securities (SCBS) Board of Directors to terminate the purchase of a 51% stake in Jirayut’s Bitkub Online does not just take the wind out of his sails, but also threatens his much-heralded journey with the biggest and scariest storm. He has seen his “values” dropping significantly. The way people regard his promotional billboards, posters, or electric and online advertisement has also changed somewhat.
The world is a lot more complicated than when chicken farmers carried their livestock to a neighborhood market to trade them for pork or vegetables. That way, all the traders needed was trust in one another. It’s no longer the case with fiat money because all everyone needs is trust in governments, banks, and regulators.
Bitcoin seeks to dilute that kind of “trust”. But first, people like Jirayut have to prove they are equal to the task.
By Tulsathit Taptim