Cambodia’s central bank, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), is launching a blockchain-based, peer-to-peer payment network, according to its chairwoman Chea Serey.

Speaking to local news outlet Phnom Penh Post, Serey described the payment network as the “national payment gateway for Cambodia,” and revealed the payment system it’s based on already has the support of 11 commercial banks and is named “Project Bakong.”  

The Bakong is being described as a “quasi-form of a central bank digital currency (CBDC)” whose trial was launched back in July of last year. The central bank’s chairwoman was quoted as saying:

Bakong will play a central role in bringing all players in the payment space in Cambodia under the same platform, making it easy for end-users to pay each other regardless of the institutions they bank with.

Serey added that eventually the NBC hopes it will allow the Bakong to be used for cross-border transactions. Shin Chang Moo, president of the Phnom Penh Commercial Bank (PPCBank), told the local news outlet the new payment system is “cheaper and more convenient” than other payment methods, including credit and debit cards.

Chang Moo noted that commercial banks may initially lose some market share to Bakong “at least in the short term.” He added the Bakong will “eventually create financially inclusive ecosystems that all the stakeholders in the industry can benefit from.”

Per Chang Moo’s words, it won’t be possible to speculate with Bakong as it’s a “closed system backed by banking authorities.” He said:

The Bakong wallet is currently linked to users’ bank accounts to exchange with hard currency. All the transactions will be done on a real-time basis with the records stored safely at NBC.

The Bakong payments app appears to have already been launched. It’s currently available for download on Google’s Play Store, and on the iOS App Store. It’s unclear whether it already uses blockchain technology or not.

Cryptocurrencies are currently legal in Cambodia, but the country’s central bank has reportedly “asked banks in Cambodia not to allow people to conduct transactions with cryptocurrencies.”

Featured image by Blake Wisz on Unsplash.