Cambodia Central Bank Chief Sees Digital Currency Boosting Fiat Use

Cambodia Central Bank Chief Sees Digital Currency Boosting Fiat Use

Cambodia’s Central Bank Governor, Chea Serey, highlighted the role of Bakong, the Cambodian Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), in promoting cross-border QR payments and increasing the use of the Cambodian Riel (KHR). Speaking at the Nikkei’s Future of Asia event in Tokyo, Serey emphasized that Cambodia’s currency system, dominated by the U.S. dollar, aims to boost the use of the Riel in daily transactions.

Since its launch in 2020, Bakong has facilitated $70 billion in digital payments as of 2023, nearly double Cambodia’s GDP. Domestic transactions via Bakong can be conducted in both Riel and the U.S. dollar, with Riel transactions accounting for $20 billion last year, more than twice the value from 2022.

Serey noted that cross-border transactions are crucial for popularizing the Riel. Bakong supports QR code payments between Cambodia and neighboring countries such as Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, and for UnionPay of China. These international transfers require Riel Bakong accounts, meaning Cambodian customers must use Riel for transactions with these countries. This limitation mandates that Thai tourists, for instance, cannot make purchases through QR code payments if the merchant does not accept the Riel.

Bakong’s unique feature is its dual backing by both the Cambodian Riel and the U.S. dollar, ensuring stability and broader applicability within Cambodia’s bi-currency system for large transactions and integration processes.

Serey revealed plans to launch Bakong cross-border payments with India by June 2024 and is exploring potential collaboration with Japan. She expressed openness to working with other countries that have significant people movement with Cambodia, leveraging technology from technologically advanced countries like Japan to improve the Bakong payment system.

In March 2024, Hong Kong’s central bank launched a wholesale CBDC to strengthen its financial system, and South Korea plans to test the digital Korean Won (KRW) by late 2024 to evaluate its usability and deposit function.

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