Junta pushes online fear

23 12 2015

red candleAs would be expected with all of the recent sedition and lese majeste charges under the military dictatorship, as TelecomAsia.net has it, “netizens of Thailand are living in a climate of fear with no rule of law and self-censorship everywhere…”.

It quotes Assistant Professor Dr Pirongrong Ramasoot from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Journalism who uses a line PPT has also used, saying: “the military government was engaging in rule by law, not rule of law.” In other words, the junta is using the computer crimes and sedition law “to crack down on all dissent and free speech online.”

Pirongrong states that since the 2014 coup, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission “has issued orders to its licensees to block certain sites.”

She adds that: “Since 2008 [following the 2006 coup], CAT has had an internet filtering system.” MICT have told her that “they are not worried about data in the country, but they are concerned with information flowing into the country…”.

Pirongrong also notes “a marked rise in vigilante groups such as the so-called garbage collection and cyber scouts that scour the internet for dissidents to turn over for persecution.”internet-monitoring

The article also indicates the increased use of law suits by the junta to eliminate “negative” stories. Chuwat Rerksirisuk, editor-in-chief of the Prachatai explains that “instead of simply blocking news pages that they did not agree with as the previous Democrat [Party] government kept doing, the junta is bombarding him with criminal defamation lawsuits.”

Sasinan Thammditinan of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said that “since the [2014] coup … [sedition and lese majeste] cases are tried in military courts without any appeal and the courts refuse to take into account the defence that the chain of custody in computer forensics has been broken.

Sasinan states that those arrested “are regularly forced for their Facebook and LINE passwords and their phones and notebooks taken.” The report continues:

Sasinan also pointed a finger of blame squarely at Microsoft Thailand for divulging users’ private or identifying information in many of her cases. “The prosecutors love Microsoft as they give them all the information they ask for,” she said.

Facebook was also a problem, not officially, but there were enough Thais working inside Facebook for a steady stream of information about dissidents to make their way to the military prosecutors, she asserted.

Arnon Chalawan from iLaw said that “17 people had been prosecuted for article 112 of the criminal code for their Facebook activity.” In many cases this means that pressing “like” rather than any re-sharing of an offending post. He states that “Facebook sometimes promotes liked tweets to third parties and therein lies the problem.” Arnon adds:

Criminal culpability requires intent and Facebook is the one promoting those posts in order to sell more online advertising, not the user who simply clicked like usually to just bookmark that post for future reference. However, that line of defence does not work in the military courts….

Thailand is in a deep and dark place where the military dictatorship is determined to expunge all opposition to itself as the self-proclaimed protectors of country and monarchy. Because the junta is intolerant and fearful for “its” monarchical regime, it will get worse.


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