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Over the past decade, cryptocurrency has been a consistently hottopic in Vietnam. A recent surge in the price of Bitcoin (BTC) fromapproximately USD 4,000 lớn nearly USD 65,000 in just over a yearhas turned up the heat more than ever. According to lớn a recent report by Statista, Vietnam is rankedsecond among 74 countries surveyed in terms of the percentage ofrespondents who said that they used or owned cryptocurrency in2020.

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The considerable interest of Vietnamese users has in turngrabbed great attention from the government, specifically regardinghow it can effectively regulate and potentially utilize this typeof currency. Recently, the government issued Decision No.942/QD-TTg dated June 15, 2021, approving the strategy fordevelopment of e-government toward digital government for 2021-2025with orientation toward 2030 ("Decision 942"). Decision942 raised a stir among Vietnamese investors as it seemed to hintat the government's growing openness toward cryptocurrency,which to lớn date has been largely opposed.

Legality of Cryptocurrency in Vietnam

For a general picture of cryptocurrency's legal status inVietnam, it can be briefly summarized that (i) there is no legaldefinition of cryptocurrency; and (ii) cryptocurrency is not yetexplicitly recognized as either an asset/property or a means oftransaction.

Thus far, the government's opposition to cryptocurrency hasbeen relatively clear. Under Official Letter No. 5747/NHNN-PC datedJuly 21, 2017, the State ngân hàng of Vietnam (SBV) explicitly statedthat cryptocurrency in general and BTC và Litecoin in particularare not legal currencies or means of payment in Vietnam; thus, anyissuance, supply, or use of them as currency or a means of paymentis prohibited, và subject to lớn administrative or even criminalsanctions.

Later, on April 11, 2018, the Prime Minister issued DirectiveNo. 10/CT-TTg to lớn agencies including the SBV, the Ministry ofFinance, và the Ministry of Public Security on increasing themanagement of activities related lớn BTC & other cryptocurrencies,with the aim lớn control, prevent, and deal with transactionsrelated lớn cryptocurrency. In response, two days later, the SBVissued Decision No. 02/CT-NHNN, which requires credit institutions,payment intermediary organizations, và SBV units to strengthenmeasures to lớn control and deal with transactions related tocryptocurrency.

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Although cryptocurrency is not legal in Vietnam, an interestingcase arose in 2020, when the Criminal Police Department proposedprosecution of 16 defendants in the case of a robbery ofcryptocurrency (including BTC & other cryptocurrencies)equivalent khổng lồ VND 35 billion, under the charge of "theft ofassets/property". This charge raised a contentious debate overwhether cryptocurrency should be recognized as an asset/propertyunder Vietnamese law, because otherwise, it would be impossible toaccuse someone of "theft of assets/property" in thissituation.

Does Decision 942 xuất hiện a Door for Recognition ofCryptocurrency?

While Decision 942 does not specifically mention cryptocurrency,it interestingly assigns the SBV to research, develop, & pilotthe use of "virtual currency" ("ti?n ?o" inVietnamese) based on blockchain technology, without elaborating anyfurther. It remains unclear whether such blockchain-based"virtual currency" under Decision 942 refers tocryptocurrency or any other virtual currency.

According khổng lồ Associate Professor Dinh vào Thinh, SeniorLecturer at the Academy of Finance, with this new pilot program,the government plans khổng lồ issue a virtual VND (that is, a currencythat is still Vietnamese currency, but has been issued andcirculated in the digital space), & this is not related tocryptocurrency lượt thích BTC. The value of this new virtual currency, ifcodified & put into practice, would depend on thegovernment's decision, rather than fluctuating in price basedon the market, like other cryptocurrencies. (See related articlein Vietnam Finance.)

It should be noted that in March 2021, Vietnam's Ministry ofFinance announced that they had established a research group onvirtual assets and virtual currency, with the aim khổng lồ achieve anappropriate policy & management mechanism for them.

Are these signs that the government is ready to lớn formally allowcryptocurrency, và even embrace it? It will be interesting lớn seewhat further steps the government takes to respond khổng lồ this emergingtrend.

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