Draft computer crimes law criticized

23 04 2011

With all the lese majeste claims and military-backed machinations of the past week or so, it is only now that PPT is able to mention the draft of the new computer crimes law that is working its way through the parliament.

The Nation says this new law is intended to replace current, already draconian law that has seen several high-profile cases and long prison sentences. The draft law is “alarming” and is “already drawing sharp criticism from cyber-law experts, who say its proposals could infringe human rights and liberties, especially those of Internet and social-network users.” That is, it is more dangerous and limiting than even the current legislation.

This “draft has been prepared jointly by the Information and Communications Technology Ministry, the Royal Thai Police and The National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec). Their aim was to fill loopholes in the Computer Crime Act (2007), which has been in force for more than three years.” No one should be surprised that these groups seek more power to suppress and censor. While there have been some public hearings, there is no guarantee that criticism will be heard, especially in “sensitive” areas – i.e. on anything to do with the monarchy.

Cyber-law specialist Paiboon Amonpinyokeat points to “major concerns about the draft Computer Crime Act.” Of great concern is that the new law would establish a “new commission that would … be to prevent and suppress computer crime and its membership would consist of representatives of security-related organisations.” The existing commission oversees “regulations related to the keeping of log files and training cyber-law officers.” The proposed commission would be a “one-stop absolute power” for computer crimes detection and enforcement. The draft law “gives the new commission authority to charge into any activities it considers to be a computer crime related to the nation’s security or lese majeste…”.

Paiboon says: “This new version of the cyber law gives too much power to this commission. It is too dangerous.”

A second concern is related to the regulation of internet content. “Paiboon said the purpose of the new law was to prevent the posting of content that committed lese majeste or content that brought a risk to, or otherwise affected, national security. However, the draft empowers the commission to enforce standards on all Internet content, including the social media – both Facebook and Twitter. The commission’s powers will be equally enforceable whether Internet content contravenes its standards intentionally or unintentionally.”

Paiboon concludes: “This new draft cannot address current [cyber-law] problems. If the government insists on rolling-out this version of cyber law, it will increase problems in society and the law will not be accepted by the people…”.

Obviously, this regime of control is extended because the current government feels it has been unable to adequately control and censor its political opposition. This authoritarian trend has been noticeable since the 2006 coup and has deepened under the Abhisit Vejjaiva regime. So much so, that Thailand already ranks internationally with some horrid regimes as having substantial censorship of political or social issues, where websites or blogs of government opponents face cyber attacks and has at least partially centralized and government-controlled internet connections. How censorial and authoritarian does it want to be?


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