Is Cambodia Getting Into Crypto, or Is Crypto Trying to Snare a Government?

The country of Cambodia might be looking to launch its own national cryptocurrency, according to international media reports.

But local media in Phnom Penh paint a picture instead of a currency project in search of a so-far unwilling country.

The Telegraph in London ran a story recently that suggested Cambodian leaders were signing on to the proposition of launching its own national cryptocurrency based on the Petro, Venezuela’s national cryptocurrency, which launched in February.

The project, called Entapay, was proposed at a Southeast Asian blockchain summit that took place on March 7 in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The ASEAN Blockchain Summit suggested via press release that Entapay had the backing of the Cambodian government, a claim quickly criticized by local media as fabricated.

Entapay later claimed military support as well, also dismissed by military leaders who spoke to reporters.

A Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister, Men Sam An, reportedly attended the hotel summit and spoke briefly, but financial and political leaders quickly backed off the claim that Entapay had any sort of support from the government.

The “claims [in the press release] were later denied by officials from the National Bank of Cambodia, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, all of whom said they had not heard of the company and that there were no plans to develop a national cryptocurrency,” wrote The Phnom Penh Post.

Sanction pressure

In separate release, the ASEAN Blockchain Association compares Entapay to the Petro, which it claims will “assist the country in avoiding the Western world’s economic sanctions — while providing a new channel of economic development for a country suffering from severe inflation.”

Venezuela’s Petro is backed by the government’s oil and natural resources. It was announced by President Nicolas Maduro in December.

The Petro reportedly was created to provide an alternative to the country’s failing currency, the “bolivar fuerte,” or “strong bolivar.”

Critics of Maduro, however, believe that the cryptocurrency is meant to bypass U.S. sanctions.

These sanctions are in place to pressure an authoritarian government that has overseen food scarcity and hyperinflation.