Cracking down IV

23 09 2021

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “hailed progress in Thailand’s campaign against ‘fake news’…”.

Translation: The regime is getting rid of news it doesn’t like. Its own fake news is okay.

The Nation adds that this cheering from The Dictator comes as “critics accuse the government of an unprecedented clampdown on internet freedom.” Indeed, “fake news” is a term “being weaponised by the government to crack down on its critics and protesters.”

The unelected general praised “state agencies after the latest Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) report showed fake news … stories in 2021 had dropped by 26.43 per cent, following a 6.69 per cent decline in 2020.” Meanwhile, it reported that “the number of genuine news stories had risen by 28.66 per cent…”. Fake statistics.

The Ministry “said 158 cases of fake news were prosecuted last year. So far, 135 cases have been prosecuted this year…”. Almost all of these cases are likely to be about  “online content critical of the government, military or Royal Family, amid rising anti-establishment protests.”

The crackdown targeting political activists has again swept up Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul. She was arrested on Wednesday “and charged with sedition due to her involvement with the Facebook page of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD).” Much of the mainstream media has been quiet on this, reflecting the regime’s pressure.

This followed the arrest of Niraphorn Onkhao a few days ago.

Plainclothes officers from the Technological Crime Suppression Division presented an arrest warrant “… issued by the Criminal Court and signed by judge Sakda Phraisan. It stated that Panusaya is charged with sedition under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code and with entering into a computer system data which is an offense to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act.”

Panusaya was taken to the TCSD headquarters in a police van.  They immediately sought her detention.

As in Niraphorn’s case, the cops were acting on a “complaint filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims [sic.], an online royalist group…”.

According to the dutiful cops, the UFTD “Facebook page contains what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, and accusations that police have used excessive force against protesters.”

You get the picture. No criticism or protest permitted. The authoritarian pit is a deep and dark one.

She was granted bail on 35,000 baht security.





Faking fake news

11 09 2021

The regime’s efforts to stifle dissent and anti-monarchism has long targeted online discussion. Because of the way that international apps and sites work, this now involves loyalist, royalist courts issuing orders under legislation that delineates so-called fake news. This resort to the courts has been a constant since the 2014 military coup, deepening since the rise of student-led protests.

Prachatai, using work by The Reporters, show that “between 16 – 22 August, the MDES [Ministry of Digital Economy and Society] reported that they have found 44 URLs which they claimed to be spreading fake news, and that they are in the process of requesting a court order to block at least 145 URLs.” Of course, this is in additon to hundreds and thousands already blocked.

In this latest bunch, most are Facebook pages. While it is no surprise, many of these pages are by political activists. What is something of a surprise is that well-established online news sites and those of journalists are also being targeted. This suggests a growing appetite to further censor the media. We would guess that the confidence to take such steps is to bolstering the regime’s more aggressive street-level tactics to repress demonstrators.

Among them is Prachatai’s own Thai language Facebook page and the Facebook profile of their reporter Sarayut Tungprasert. Other media included are “Voice TV’s Talking Thailand Facebook page and the Progressive Movement’s Facebook page.” Other pages listed are:

The Facebook pages for academic in exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun, photographer Karnt Thassanaphak, actor and pro-democracy protest supporter Inthira Charoenpura, and activist Parit Chiwarak are all included on the list, as well as the Facebook pages for activist groups Free Youth, United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), Dome Revolution, and Thalufah. The Facebook group [belong to Pavin] Royalist Marketplace is also listed.

17 Twitter accounts appear, including those of human rights lawyer and activist Anon Nampa, Thalufah and UFTD, as well as @ThePeopleSpaces, an account which often runs discussions relating to politics and the pro-democracy movement on Twitter’s Spaces platform.

Prachatai states that it “does not know which piece of news led to the Facebook page and Sarayut’s Facebook profile being included on the list.”

While the king has not been seen for several weeks – is he in Thailand or holidaying in Germany? – his minions are hard at work erasing anti-monarchism.





Updated: Trampling remaining freedoms V

11 08 2021

It has been a busy few days and PPT is catching up on some of the reports, in this case, from Thai Enquirer.

In one report, there’s an account of a “document that was leaked to the press on Monday evening purportedly show[ing] a government watchlist of dissidents that is under government surveillance and facing travel restrictions.”

The document, initially said to be “fake” by a military source, it listed “some of the most prominent anti-government protesters along with opposition parliamentarians and journalists.” Some of those included were “Move Forward Party Leader Pita Limjaroenrat, former Future Forward Leader Thanathorn Juangruangroongkit, protest leader Anon Nampa, and journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk.”

The report refers to “the list is real is a worrying escalation of the administrations war on civil liberties.” It cites political analyst Arun Saronchai who states:

Not only is the administration using continuous violence and arrest against peaceful protesters but this document is troubling because it includes members of the press and politicians as well….

That means to the government, they will paint anyone that opposes them with the same brush. What we need to understand now is what membership on this list entails and what kind of surveillance is being done against them….

A second report is of the police “seeking software that would help it monitor chat applications and social media private messages…”. The report states that the “Royal Thai Police have reached out to several companies selling software similar to the Pegasus software developed by an Israeli defense company.” The reason for this is that they want to digitally snoop on those using “popular chat applications like LINE, WhatsApp, and Telegram.”

Police want to “prevent political protest as well as go after members of organized crime and drug smugglers…”. We can guess that the main reason would be to crack down further on anti-monarchism.

This kind of news explains why protesters are targeting police. They are becoming the regime’s Stasi.

Update: The document mentioned in the first report above now seems genuine. The police’s Immigration Bureau seem to say it is their document but they did not release it. They seem to want to deny it is a political blacklist, saying it is an immigration blacklist. They say it is people who are watched on leaving and entering the country. But that lame claim fails to explain why, for example, a reporter with no warrants for his arrest is on the list or why political figures without warrants are also there. It is a political blacklist for harassing people and making their life difficult and to demonstrate the state’s arbitrariness and power.





Updated: Trampling remaining freedoms III

8 08 2021

The Bangkok Post reports some good news: “The Civil Court on Friday ruled in favour of the media by issuing an injunction suspending Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s regulation restricting freedom of speech and threatening internet censorship.”

There are few good news stories from the judiciary, but this one seems to be in that category, with the court ruling that the new rules “went against the law,” and even issuing an “English-language announcement of its decision.”

It is quoted:

Considering that Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) (No. 29) provides Prime Minister no authorization to suspend internet services provision, Article 2 of the Regulation authorizing the suspension of internet services provision against the Internet Protocol address (IP address) of which the user has disseminated the information not compatible with the Regulation is in contrary to the law….

It is in the view of the Court that, considering the existence of several legal instruments establishing the measures concerning illegal dissemination of information and the government’s capability to educate people, develop a public better understanding and examine false information, the suspension of the enforcement of such Regulation does not pose any obstacle to public administration in emergency situations and public interest….

Update: The bad news is also in the Bangkok Post. It reports that “Thailand has moved into the third-lowest tier in the world for internet freedom, down two steps from the year before, according to Comparitech, a website that focuses on improving cybersecurity and privacy online.”

That rating says that Thailand is a massive “73% restricted,” meaning it ranks on a par with dictatorships and monarchies like “Belarus, Qatar, Syria, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates…”.

Most of Thailand’s score was attributed to the royalist-inspired banning of Pornhub. This is, however, just one element of a broad effort to limit non-official information available on the monarchy.





Targeting Facebook on anti-monarchism

5 07 2021

About three weeks ago, it was reported that the regime’s No. 2 had ordered the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society to crack down on “fake news.” We assume he got his orders from higher up because the DES immediately ordered dozens of URLs closed within 48 hours. Many of the sites were not really fake news sites, but gambling or pornography sites. But the real target anti-regime and anti-monarchy sites.

Three weeks later and not much has happened apart from the regime getting ever more twitchy, again suggesting that there’s very high-level pressure on them.Facebook-Dislike-Button

As Thai PBS has reported, the regime has resumed its battle with Facebook, over the content it still deceptively claims is “fake news” when they mean sites that provide information about the monarchy:

These accounts – all operated from overseas – are registered to Pavin Chachavalpongpun, his discussion page Royalist Marketplace – Talad Luang, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Suda Rangkupan, Pixel Helper, DK Ning, Aum Neko, and Kon Thai UK. Several of the account owners are wanted in Thailand for lese majeste.

Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn is flustered, saying: “Despite negotiations, Facebook has refused to follow orders to block eight accounts. I will bring legal action against Facebook in Thailand and its headquarters…”.

He demanded that Facebook “show responsibility towards Thailand’s issues and comply with the country’s regulations, given the fact that Facebook has many users in the Kingdom.”

There’s two things to note here. First, the minister demands that the whole of Facebook follow royalist norms and the regime’s illegitimate use of draconian laws. In other words, he seems to be going beyond the usual demand for geo-blocking of popular anti-monarchy  sites. Second, he seems to be threatening Facebook with exclusion from the Thai market, which would require that the regime descend further down the Chinese road and come up with state-approved, state monitored social media platforms.





Facebook and monarchy panic

25 06 2021

About two weeks ago, it was reported that the regime’s No. 2 had ordered the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society to crack down on “fake news.”

DES sprang into action, ordering dozens of URLs closed within 48 hours.Many of the sites were not really fake news sites, but gambling sites and more significantly, anti-regime and anti-monarchy sites.

Two weeks later and not much has happened.

Now DES Minister Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn “has threatened legal action against Facebook for refusing to close the accounts of users deemed to have disseminated fake news and criticised the monarchy.”

Most of the sites he’s worried about are anti-regime and anti-monarchy.

The regime’s latest tactic in shutting down anti-monarchy sites is to have local courts – fake courts? – rule them illegal. This then permits a “legal” censorship, with DES sending demand “letters to the internet service providers and Facebook in Thailand to make them comply.”

The big concern is for social media accounts that spoof and report on the monarchy: those associated with Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Andrew MacGregor Marshall, which have yet to be shut.

Minister Chaiwut lamented: “Despite the negotiations, Facebook has still refused to follow orders to shut down eight accounts. I will bring legal action against Facebook in Thailand and its headquarters…”. He seemed to threaten Facebook’s existence in Thailand: “As there are many users in Thailand, Facebook must also be responsible for the country’s issues, as well as comply with Thai regulations…”.

Watch this space.





ARTICLE 19 on deepening censorship

18 06 2021

We reproduce a recent ARTICLE 19 statement:

Thailand: Proposed initiatives to combat ‘fake news’ undermine freedom of expression

Proposed government initiatives to address ‘fake news’ would further curtail digital rights and freedom of expression in Thailand, said ARTICLE 19. In recent weeks, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) has disclosed plans, including new regulations under the Computer Crimes Act, that would tighten governmental control over social media platforms and impose additional barriers to online expression. The Ministry should abandon these efforts in favour of an approach that respects the human rights of social media users and others expressing controversial or critical opinions.

“Official actions to combat ‘fake news’ are often less about preventing online harms than expanding State control over the internet,” said Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme. “While we have not yet seen the proposed new regulations, recent actions and statements by government officials are cause for alarm.”

On 20 May 2021, MDES announced plans to update ministerial regulations under the Computer Crimes Act to address the dissemination of false information. The Ministry expects to complete a draft of the new regulations later this month.

The announcement by MDES comes amid a number of government actions ostensibly aimed at combatting ‘fake news’. On 14 May 2021, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan instructed the Anti-Fake News Centre to intensify its efforts to combat ‘fake news’. On 18 May Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha signed an executive order establishing the Committee on Suppression and Correction of Dissemination of False Information on Social Media. On 27 May, Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, established three new sub-committees: one for the supervision of social media, one for enhancing law enforcement measures to prevent and solve problems on social media, and one for drafting ministerial regulations under the Computer Crimes Act. And on 8 June, the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence assigned the Council of State to review Thai and foreign laws, with a focus on regulating social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Officials were specifically instructed to review Indian legislation, a concerning development in light of recent measures taken there that violate free expression and privacy rights.

While neither MDES nor other government bodies have provided much information about the proposed regulations under the Computer Crimes Act, statements by Chaiwut have offered clues about what to expect. He announced the new regulations using language concerning the collection of network traffic data. Late last month, Chaiwut stated that the Ministry may require social media accounts to be registered with true names and ID information. He further mulled the possibility of requiring social media companies to establish offices in Thailand.

Moreover, recent actions by Thai authorities give an indication of what to expect from the increased focus on ‘fake news’. On 2 June 2021, a court ordered Facebook and internet service providers to block or remove eight Facebook accounts for allegedly spreading ‘fake news’. These include the accounts of political commentator in exile Pavin Chachavalpongpun and the Royalist Markeplace group he founded—both likewise targeted last year under the Computer Crimes Act and the subject of a legal complaint against Facebook—as well as the account of journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall. These accounts are notable for featuring critical commentary on government officials and the Thai monarchy.

The proposed new regulations would add to a number of existing mechanisms to monitor and punish vaguely defined ‘fake news’. In 2019, Thailand established the ‘Anti-Fake News Centre’ and in 2020 the Technology Crime Suppression Police Bureau was set up to monitor cybercrime, including ‘fake news’. Thailand employs a number of hybrid measures to combat ‘fake news’ that rely on artificial intelligence and human analysts to monitor social media activity on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms. Thailand’s application of these methods to target social media users has come under criticism by human rights experts, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Rather than addressing these criticisms, the proposed changes raise fresh concerns.

In light of other measures to collect and track personal data, MDES’s suggestion of the need to collect additional network traffic data raises concerns over the risk of interference with the right to privacy. Thailand already requires SIM cards to be registered with national IDs or passports. Beginning last year, Thailand also rolled out a facial recognition system tied to SIM card registration in the southern border provinces, which disproportionately targets ethnic Malay Muslims who are already subjected to other biometric data collection. While it is unclear how Thailand will force telecommunications and internet service providers to collect and hand over user data under the new regulations, adding data retention and handover requirements enhances government capacity for surveillance and risks stifling expression.

MDES’s suggestion that it would like to see social media companies establish offices in Thailand is worrying. ARTICLE 19 has previously raised concerns over domestic incorporation requirements, which put local staff members at risk and give governments greater leverage over social media platforms.

It is unclear exactly how real-name registration requirements for online activity could be implemented in practice, but MDES has reportedly acknowledged it would seek cooperation from social media platforms and related online services. However, this also raises questions about the risk of penalties should such platforms refuse to comply with government demands that do not comply with international standards.

In a 2017 Joint Declaration, four special mandate holders on the freedom of expression noted, ‘general prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including ‘false news’ or ‘non-objective information’, are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression’ and found that they ‘should be abolished’.

In a 2013 report to the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of expression held that ‘real name registration requirements allow authorities to more easily identify online commentators or tie mobile use to specific individuals, eradicating anonymous expression’. And in 2015, the Special Rapporteur added that ‘privacy interferences that limit the exercise of the freedom of opinion and expression…must not in any event interfere with the right to hold opinions, and those that limit the freedom of expression must be provide by law and necessary and proportionate’. The categorical denial of anonymity online risks infringing on the ability of social media users to hold and form opinions and engage in free expression.

In light of these concerns, MDES should abandon plans to introduce additional restrictions on internet freedom under the Computer Crimes Act and should instead amend the law so that it complies with international human rights standards.

“Misinformation is a real problem and Thai officials are right to be concerned,” said Bugher. “However, policy measures that rely heavily on censorship, surveillance, and criminal sanction shut down public discourse, contributing to the mistrust and secrecy that feed misinformation. The Thai government should instead focus on transparency, the dissemination of accurate information, and creating an enabling environment for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”





Updated: The anti-monarchy virus

5 06 2021

Seemingly worried that the nation lacks herd immunity, the royalist regime is increasing its efforts to prevent infection by the anti-monarchy virus. The latest effort involves enlisting the royalist courts to ban eight social media pages.

The Ministry  of Digital Economy and Society which only seems to work on banning free expression and thought, has had the courts order these pages closed “because their content allegedly violates the Computer Crime Act.” We assume it is not “alleged” as they have been banned.

The Ministry “announced that the Facebook pages of Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Royalist Marketplace, Suda Rangkupan, ป้าหนิง DK, Aum Neko, KTUK and Pixel HELPER will be removed.” The Nation report says “[t]hese pages carried politics-related content and were critical of the Thai government.”

This is not entirely accurate. They have been banned for their anti-monarchy content.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Ministry describes these sites as having “posted fake news…”. Some might suggest that these sites do sometimes post rumors and guesses about the monarchy. But that reflects the medieval secrecy associated with a monarchy that gulps taxpayer funds, regularly intervenes in politics, has an unsavory reputation, and has a nasty, symbiotic relationship with the military.

Thai PBS gets the reason for the ban right, adding that the Ministry “summoned internet providers to acknowledge a court order to block or delete eight Facebook accounts, groups and fan pages, known for their criticism of the Thai monarchy.”

The court order apparently also applies to “[a]ny new or other accounts related to the same users, providing similar content…”.

This is one step in a process of getting Facebook to take down these pages. In an increasing ly authoritarian capitalist world, it seems likely that Facebook will fold. In seeking to enforce royalist silence on the monarchy, a “working committee has also been set up to pressure platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to ban accounts which feature content which violates Thai laws…”. You see the issue here. A mad or medieval regime can have all kinds of regressive laws and thus pressure the huge internet businesses.

In Thailand, the Ministry announces that it “…

© Shutterstock

now gives importance to prosecuting violators to the fullest extent of the law…”. The court order requires ISPs “to remove or block information posted by the individuals on websites and social networks, along with their passwords and IP addresses, from their computer systems.”

The Bangkok Post story cites Sunai Pasuk of Human Rights Watch, who “called the court order a censorship order instructing Facebook to ban critics of the monarchy. That will put a chokehold on people’s ability to express themselves as well as on the social media platform’s open space…”.

The royalist regime believes such a chokehold will prevent the anti-monarchy virus from spreading further.

Update: Prachatai reports:

On 2 June, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES) Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn invited Internet Service Providers to acknowledge a court order to restrict access to or delete computer data of 8 allegedly illegal users on Facebook within 24 hours. Four days on, the pages of the targets remain accessible.





Royalists need 112

28 03 2021

New Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn said on Friday that he will continue with his predecessor’s policies. That is, his working life will be more or less devoted to track down and censor websites considered to be defaming the monarchy.

For a story that eschews the minister’s spinlessness and offers courage in the face of royalist repression, see the ABC’s “Thailand protest leader Rung could face a lengthy prison sentence for allegedly insulting the King. But she isn’t giving up yet.” Despite facing 112nine lese majeste charges that mean “she could be handed a maximum jail sentence of up to 135 years,” Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul or Rung, has vowed to fight on.

She explains: “I am in this battle, I give it my all, I devote my life,” adding: “Thailand has been changed hugely [by the protest movement] and there is no return … I feel going to jail is worth it…”.

Rung wants Article 112 “revoked entirely.” She said: “There is no need to have this special criminal law separately…. If [the royal family] think they were insulted they should use [civil] defamation law to sue…”.

Of course, royalists like the new minister and some of those cited in the story will be livid, realizing that their whole regime of fear and repression requires 112.





More censorship for monarchy

31 12 2020

COVID spreading? Not as important as the monarchy. Crap economy? Forget about it and “protect” the monarchy.

The Bangkok Post reports the frenzied and angry efforts of the censorious Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta to censor the internet. He wants to sweep it clean of material that reveals the monarch’s notoriety.

Between August and December, Thai internet users have had 5,025 URLs blocked by the minister. He wants 8,440 URLs discussing the monarchy removed.

Buddhipongse proudly declared that some of these URLs were “linked to the social media accounts of … Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul…”.

Buddhipongse new year present is to the king, not the people.








%d bloggers like this: