Making Thailand authoritarian

29 04 2016

The military junta is getting away with too much. The illegitimate referendum by an illegitimate regime is drawing attention away from its basic work of remaking Thailand in the name and manner of the hierarchical institutions, establishing what it hopes will be a durable authoritarianism.

One of these areas is in controlling political voice. Here we don’t mean the “normal” political repression the military dictatorship engages in. We refer to establishing laws that will restrict online expression into the future.

As the Bangkok Post expressed it a couple of days ago, the “first three draft bills related to the digital economy have sparked concerns over possible problematic internet use…”. THe bills have now been passed by the puppet National Legislative Assembly.

These bills are meant to “govern computer-related crime, digital development for the economy and society, and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).”

While the bills are touted as facilitating the development of the digital economy, much of the detail of these bills is meant to severely limit political expression and commentary on the monarchy.

Dhiraphol Suwanprateep, from the ICT group at Baker & McKenzie, says that:

Section 14 of the computer-related crime draft bill, which has been revised to include the offence of dishonest or deceitful importation to a computer system of forged or false computer data, is likely to cause damage to the public.

“It is still too broad and likely to encompass acts which should not be deemed as illegal acts…”.

Dhiraphol adds:

Section 18 has been revised to expand investigation powers of government officials to cover criminal offences…. The powers included copying, accessing a computer system, decoding a person’s computer data and seizing or attaching a computer system for the purpose of obtaining further details of an offence.

The Nation reports that the bills “sailed through” the NLA:

Meanwhile, amendments to the Computer Crime Act were also approved after a first reading yesterday stipulating that online and related offences will be subject to stronger penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Unsolicited emails, online distribution of false data that is libellous or affects national security or the economy, and other online offences will be punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and fines of up to Bt200,000.

The military junta is making Thailand a narrower, more restricted, repressed place.