Sunday, December 16, 2018
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THE GOVERNMENT will step up surveillance of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies by requiring digital currency exchangers to report their transactions to the country’s anti-money laundering agency.

Pol Maj-General Romsit Viriyasan, the acting chief of the Anti-Money Laundering Organisation (AMLO), said the agency would amend its law to impose the requirement in order to suppress money-laundering activities using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as media of exchange.

Investing in digital currencies carries a high risk because Thai law does not recognise them as legal tender, so the public should exercise caution to avoid misleading and cheating tactics, he said.

Local and international criminal networks relied on digital currencies to hide ill-gotten gains, he added.

Moreover, the methods used to lure unsuspecting investors had become diverse and sophisticated, including the buying and selling of goods with the digital coins to conceal ill-gotten wealth, Romsit said.

In response, the AMLO needed to be empowered to investigate and pursue digital money trails, he added. Bitcoin and another cryptocurrency, ripple, are currently the two most popular units used by criminals to launder money in Thailand.

‘Ponzi schemes’

Even though digital currencies are not legal tender, they have market value and can be traded internationally on digital platforms in Thailand and overseas.

Romsit said the current AMLO law empowered the agency to investigate cases in which ill-gotten money, such as the proceeds of cheating and investment scams, was converted into other assets, while the planned amendment would relate to bitcoin and all other digital currencies.

If there is solid evidence, the agency will also be empowered to freeze all assets arising from illegal activity, pending further investment and prosecution. The AMLO will require people providing digital exchange services to file reports about transactions, with a special focus on people involved in suspicious activities that could be covering up money laundering.

Meanwhile, AMLO chairman Pol General Chaiya Siri-ampunkul said the public should be careful when investing in bitcoin and other digital currencies since they could be joining illegal Ponzi schemes using digital currencies.

Most of the schemes promised very high returns but payments were typically delivered for a short time only, after which they stopped and the schemes collapsed, Chaiya said.

He added that investors would not be able to contact criminal networks involved and could lose their investments.

The public should reach AMLO via its 1710 hotline for inquiries, he said.

 

Thai street food cook feels heat of Michelin fame

Posted by pakin On December - 22 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS
Wearing her trademark ski goggles for protection from flying sparks, Thai cook Jay Fai hunches over two sizzling woks as tourists from around the world line up in three-hour-long queues at her modest streetside eatery.

The 72-year-old’s crab-stuffed omelettes have always been popular among local gourmands, but her eponymous restaurant shot to global fame overnight after it was awarded a Michelin star this month at the launch of Bangkok’s first guide.

While she is proud of the achievement, former dressmaker Jay Fai is still adjusting to the media frenzy that has seized her open-air kitchen in Bangkok’s old quarter.

“There are advantages and disadvantages,” she told AFP as she flung ingredients into a wok, explaining she did not have time for a formal interview.

“The downside is being exhausted … Also, the government wants me to promote Thailand. I feel like I don’t have a choice,” she added.

She has been asked to appear at the seaside town of Hua Hin for an international tennis tournament this weekend, where she will teach top-ranked players to make her signature crab omelette and the Thai soup dish Tom Yum Kung.

“I will not be selling for two days,” she said ruefully, adding that she would even consider handing back the coveted star if it meant returning to her normal routine.

Any distraction from work means a loss of business for Jay Fai, whose spirited cooking style — a flurry of activity from grabbing handfuls of raw seafood to dishing out plates of the finished product — is one of the main attractions.

Her supersized portions of crab and jumbo prawns are also part of the draw, though the dishes are far pricier than the city’s average street vendor at upwards of $20 a pop.

The unflashy eatery, which has partial indoor seating, was the only streetside venue among the 17 Bangkok restaurants awarded stars on December 6, when Michelin unveiled its first guide for the Thai capital.

Michelin only awards stars to establishments with fixed addresses, leaving many of Bangkok’s famous roadside stalls out of the running at a time when the city is attempting to move them off the pavements and into organised markets.

Jay Fai had heard of the brand name Michelin but was not aware that the French tyre company had anything to do with cooking.

She is not the first chef to feel the heat over the flood of attention that comes with a Michelin star.

In September a chef in southern France with three stars said he wanted to be stripped of the award because of the “huge pressure” to meet its standards on a daily basis.

But Jay Fai’s colleagues are not worried about her.

“She’s quite strong. She never gets ill,” said Kung, an assistant who has worked there for 10 years.//AFP

 

PromptPay to spur cut in trading fee

Posted by pakin On December - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The popularity of the PromptPay service will lead e-payment gateways to reduce their fees and launch new services, says a local e-payment gateway pioneer.

“Banks are making an aggressive approach on payment gateways as more merchants use PromptPay because of free transfer fees and accept quick response (QR) code payment, developments that challenge e-payment gateway operators,” said Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, chief executive of Pay Solutions Co, a local payment gateway provider.

According to Bank of Thailand statistics, the highest volume of payment comes from e-payments, compared with other methods of payment such as cheques, ATMs, counter service, internet and mobile.

As of Nov 30, 2017, e-payment volume reached 330 million transactions, up from 302 million transactions in January 2017.

Moreover, intense competition is coming from new players such as BluePay and AirPay.

E-payment provider Paysbuy was a dominant player until its acquisition by Omise in July 2017. To cash in on the thousands of merchants connected to Paysbuy’s payment gateway, Omise has waived the transaction fees for the first 20,000 baht the merchants spend during the first six months.

Pay Solutions is also eyeing a share of Paysbuy traders.

“We hope to attract 10-20% of Paysbuy’s merchants to connect with Pay Solutions,” Mr Pawoot said.

Pay Solutions has developed its gateway to support Alipay by connecting with the authorised partner of Alipay in Thailand, which allows local merchants using its gateway to accept Alipay payment. This is particularly useful for Chinese tourists who need to book accommodation or make purchases in Thailand.

The intense competition has also driven down the payment gateway fee to 3.5-3.6% from more than 4.7%.

Mr Pawoot said the company will also enable its system to accept QR code payment to further help its merchants.

The growth of e-payment mainly came from online-based services including food ordering, booking or reservation and online shopping.

“Our uniqueness is that we accept every payment method, including instalments, and integrate with social media pages for social commerce,” he said.

Piyachart Ratanaprasartporn, chief executive of 2C2P Pte, a Southeast Asia payment service provider, said PromptPay and QR code payment will be important tools to drive e-payment in Thailand. They provide a fast and easy user experience for buyers and low charges for merchants, benefits that are bound to attract more people to adopt the schemes.

Moreover, smartphone players like Samsung and Apple also promote mobile payment.

E-payment is now pretty much borderless, he said, and a successful payment provider is one that provides many payment choices to merchants to expand their coverage, not just locally but across Southeast Asia.

“Online merchants will be consolidated and acquired by big corporations and expand regionally or globally, so payment needs to be cross-border too,” said Mr Piyachart.

 

BTS on the hunt for more hotel chains in Europe

Posted by pakin On December - 13 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

SET-listed BTS Group Holdings Plc (BTS) is mulling the acquisition of another hotel chain in Europe, worth up to 10 billion baht, to reinforce its global presence, says chairman Keeree Kanjanapas.

The company aims for average annual net profit growth of 25% over the next five years.

“There’s the possibility we might acquire more hotel chains in Europe to expand our hotel business and build a strong global presence,” he said.

BTS Group is in talks with two hotel chains in Europe, said Mr Keeree. The first chain operates wellness resorts with locations across central Europe. The second chain runs hotels in inner city locations with no more than 200 rooms each, with properties in France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Spain.

The deal is expected to be worth up to 10 billion baht, he said, but would not reveal the targeted hotel chains.

BTS Group’s latest move underscores fresh efforts to penetrate deeper into the hotel market abroad.

The diversified holding company, spanning from elevated trains to property development and food businesses, earlier this year successfully dipped its toes in the overseas hotel market by taking over the entire stake in Vienna International Hotel Management AG (Vienna House) through its 35.6%-owned affiliate, U City Plc. That deal, worth 12.3 billion baht, is further part of plans to ramp up recurring revenue.

Vienna House has 16 upscale leisure and business hotels and eight hotels operating in several European countries, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Austria, Belarus, France, Russia and Slovakia.

Mr Keeree said that at its next shareholder meeting, set to be held on Jan 4, BTS Group will ask for permission to restructure by transferring all its property businesses to be held under U City.

These businesses include a 50% joint venture, Absolute Hotel Services, which operates hotels under the U Hotels & Resorts, Eastin Hotels, Eastin Residences and Eastin Easy brands; and more than 20 condominium projects developed via joint ventures between BTS Group and another SET-listed property developer, Sansiri Plc.

He said that the number of undeveloped land plots currently owned by BTS Group’s subsidiary, Unicorn Enterprise Co Ltd, will also be transferred to U City.

“If the restructuring plan is approved, U City will no longer be a small real estate company, with its business spanning the globe. We expect it will soon be able to start paying dividends to shareholders,” said Mr Keeree.

Property is one of the four main businesses of BTS Group, with others including infrastructure through Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Co Ltd and its media business through VGI Global Media Plc.

He said BTS Group is also hoping to invest in the 16.4-kilometre western Orange Line, running from Thailand Cultural Centre to Taling Chan, worth 109 billion baht, on top of several double-track railway projects.

BTS shares closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 8.25 baht, down five satang, in trade worth 138 million baht.

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