On the new cybersecurity law

27 01 2019

Thailand’s computer crimes law was enacted by the last junta-installed regime led by Gen Surayud Chulanont, plucked from the king’s Privy Council by the royalist-military junta to be prime minister. One of his regime’s last acts was that draconian law. Surayud returned to the Privy Council.

One of the last pieces of the current military dictatorship will be a new  cybersecurity law. That law will strengthen and extend upon the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. It is feared:

will create a government agency with sweeping powers of search and seizure, triggering concerns for freedom of expression and data security among civil society and business groups as elections loom.

The draft law will create a committee “that it will consist of up to 15 members, including the prime minister and the deputy prime minister…”. It will be empowered to “seize computers and data without a court warrant in the case of an emergency.”

Of course, the question is: What constitutes an emergency? Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator at Thai Netizen Network says: “It’s likely that every cyber threat will be considered an emergency, making a court order irrelevant…”. Arthit adds: “In the past five years, there’s been an abuse of power. If you talk about the monarchy or the NCPO [junta] online they count that as a cyber threat.”

Pavin Chachavalpongpun noted that heavy use of the lese majeste law by the junta to silence those critical of the monarchy and military junta. He notes that King Vajiralongkorn “doesn’t want more lese-majeste cases, so there’s been a significant drop in the last year. The palace wants cyber laws to be used instead…”. He might have added sedition and other laws that stifle dissent.

Using the existing law and junta edicts, the regime has been active in online censorship:

According to Facebook, it only complied with one 2017 request for user data from Thailand’s military government. In 2018, it restricted 285 posts deemed in violation of the same law.

Google meanwhile said the NCPO made requests to remove 9,986 items identified as critical of the government in 2017 and complied with 93 percent of requests made.

Other, far more draconian measures are also being used to silence criticism.



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