Updated: Control and surveillance

25 12 2016

The puppet National Legislative Assembly’s dutiful passing of amendments to the computer crimes law came despite considerable opposition expressed in a giant petition.

The revised law expands the capacity of the military junta’s capacity to “protect” itself and the monarchy, there has been more opposition. Limited in so many ways by the junta’s repression, the opposition has involved hactivism, some brave demonstrations and more discussion.

A forum held today saw critics warning of the impacts of the law but also of the junta’s broader plans for greater control and surveillance.

Sarinee Achawanantakul of the Thai Netizen Network told the forum that several other draft bills, which will also be dutifully passed by the NLA, including the Cyber Security Bill and a radio frequency allocation bill, will expand the state’s control. Sarinee “said the government sector had an idea to control mainstream media.”

Its an important point.

The military dictatorship wants to control everything and oppress everyone. However, this is not new in any way. Rather, this is the “traditional” role of the “king’s servants.”

The civil and military bureaucracy has long allocated to itself the paternalist role, ensuring that the children-citizens are properly ordered. As with everything else the dictatorship does, this is rolling back the years and the political developments since 1992 that began to alter the relationship between the military-monarchy regime and its bureaucracy (amart) and the children-citizens (phrai).

Update: The Bangkok Post has an updated story on the forum.

Online censorship pressure

1 02 2016

A couple of days ago PPT posted on the military regime pressuring Google to censor without a court order. When we look back at that post we realize that we neglected to mention that the main area of concern was posts and videos about the monarchy. It goes without saying….

censorship-for-the-internetReuters reports that the military government is also trying to get more censorship out of Facebook and Line. The story is taken up at the Bangkok Post, saying that “[e]xecutives of the giant social media outlets … have been called to a meeting by the national reform assembly over monitoring and removing content considered a security threat to Thailand.” Yes, the monarchy.

While Reuters says the committee now says it is emphasizing content for which there is a court order, this is spin and the leaked document about Google made this clear. Nothing like trying to clean up after you’ve made a mess.

Arthit Suriyawongkul, a coordinator of the Thai Netizens Network advocacy group, says this attempt to have Google act is against Thai law: “Under the Computer Crime Act, if internet users post content suspected of violating the law, any accusations against them must be verified by a court before action is taken…”.

It seems that Thailand’s lawmakers don’t care too much about following the law.

Keeping the country orderly and organized

29 12 2015

The Nation has a couple of articles that look at the Computer Crimes law.

In the first article, Sarinee Achawanantakul, who is President of the Foundation of Internet and Civic Culture or the Thai Netizen Network, argues that “[p]ressing ‘like’ on a[n allegedly] defamatory message posted on Facebook is certainly not a crime…”.

Clicking “like” on a Facebook post, according to Sarinee,”… should not violate Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which is meant to punish those who propagate false information regarding national security and stability, or information that pertains to obscenity. This is especially so as Facebook “prevents users from setting their preferences to control how their ‘likes’ are displayed or with whom they are shared.” In addition, “Facebook posts can always be edited by the person who posted the original message, and thus the full significance of ‘likes’ cannot always be conclusively evaluated.”Facebook-Like-Button

Seems reasonable to PPT, but not to the authorities who enforce this law and lese majeste. As Sarinee notes, in the current political climate, which is repressive, there is encouragement for “a biased interpretation of the law that results in unjust outcomes…”. In addition, Sarinee said “the Act’s current application is far beyond the original definition of the Act and therefore could be considered ‘dangerous’.”

The second article sets out an official view, and as would be expected, it is chilling. Police Colonel Olarn Sukkasem, said to be the superintendent of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, Central Investigation Bureau, and in charge of enforcing the Computer Crime Act, sees “likes” as identifying “social media conspirators.”

“Liking” defamatory content on Facebook sparks debate on whether acknowledging such posts should be considered a crime. On the one hand, authorities say the action is deemed as supporting dissent, but on the other, cyber-liberty advocates say Facebook “likes” only constitute support of the online record of a pre-existing act. “Liking” a message that turns out to be identified as “controversial or defamatory … on Facebook is certainly a crime as it shows support for the content.”Facebook-Dislike-Button

The colonel equates this action as “on par with cheering someone who has murdered a victim.”

Olarn warned that clicking “like” was “showing support for the content. If they perform any action regarding the message whatsoever … that are contributing to the message.” He views this as an act that “threatens national security and stability.”

The superintendent “admitted that the police have limited resources and they cannot arrest all wrongdoers in this context.” He said police:

… do prioritise their list of arrest warrants based on the actions of the suspects. For instance, if a thousand people ‘like’ an inappropriate post, but one among them also posts other defamatory photos or messages, that person would be arrested first…. The superintendent said in that case some people might be considered guiltier than others, although all of the thousand Facebook conspirators would be considered legally guilty…. Olarn added that the person who went to the trouble of adding other photos or messages would potentially be considered more “dangerous” than the others.

He admitted that Facebook-related arrests were unlikely in other countries where the Thai arrests were sen as “an extreme reaction…”. However, he said “critics of Thailand should not be oversensitive about the issue.”

Olarn “explained” that “Thai people had been used to limitless freedom, which had caused society to become disorganised. Something had to be done to stop people from exercising their free will without enough consideration about others…”. He added that the country’s “current socio-political situation is abnormal and stringent law enforcement in society is needed to keep the country orderly and organised…”.

He means repressed and suppressed.

Cyber-snooping enhanced

28 01 2015

Some readers will have followed the debates and progress of the various cyber security/digital economy laws that the military dictatorship is pressing through its various puppet organizations.

PPT hasn’t given these bills and laws enough attention, just through lack of time and the avalanche of lese majeste material we have to deal with. We did have a post about a week ago. There we wrote a bit about the bunch of laws that targets lese majeste under the guise of other laws.

Fortunately, Thai Netizen is working on these laws and has even provided translations to English of several of these laws. Do follow them.

Freedom House on internet censorship

28 09 2012

Freedom House has released its Internet Freedom report for 2012. Thailand ranks as unfree, along with China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Burma, and a few others. The report is long and detailed.

The report notes that although “the Thai government has been blocking some internet content since 2003, restrictions have expanded in recent years in both scale and scope.” Most of this is related to the monarchy. Before 2007 it says that most censorship was “pornography, online gambling, or circumvention tools, although some politically oriented websites were also found to be inaccessible.”

Since 2007, censorship “has grown exponentially, particularly those with content perceived as critical of the monarchy.” Figures are provided.

After 7 April 2010, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, backed by the military blocked a “large number of websites focused on the opposition red-shirt movement…. These included individual YouTube videos, Facebook groups, and Google groups.”

The report notes that “less clearly partisan online news outlets or human rights groups, such as Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT), the online newspaper Prachatai, the Political Prisoners in Thailand blog, and Asia Sentinel” were blocked.

The advent of the “democratically elected government” of Yingluck Shinawatra dashed “hopes that the new government would loosen internet censorship…”. Again, sites about the monarchy have been the target.

It states that some sites “blocked in 2010 were accessible, including FACT and the Political Prisoners in Thailand” have become available. For PPT this is only partly true as blocking is off and on. Media “reports citing government officials, thousands of webpages have been added to the blacklist under the new administration.” However, it is unclear if censorship has actually increased.

The centrality of the monarchy to censorship regime is explained:

Despite [a]… constraining environment, outside of comments perceived as critical of the monarchy, most other areas of discussion on political, social, and human rights issues are freely and passionately debated in Thailand.

The report notes that:

While many blogs and discussion sites are blocked, users can access them with readily available circumvention software, and content producers often republish information on alternate sites. These techniques have undermined the MICT’s censorship efforts.

That’s true, and this is why PPT has a “mirror” at PP of T. We are further mentioned in another section of the report:

As internet freedom has come under growing pressure, online activists have organized to push back. The Political Prisoners in Thailand blog provides information on lèse-majesté prosecutions. The Thai Netizen Network (TNN) was founded in early 2009 to uphold users’ right to access, free expression, and privacy via public statements and other advocacy initiatives.

This is a most useful report, and highly recommended to readers.

Human rights groups speak against the denial of bail on lese majeste

16 02 2012

PPT has been harping on the point that the denial of bail for several people charged with lese majeste is a rejection of constitutional provisions and amounts to at least additional punishment and could be conceived as a form of torture.

We are pleased to note that several Thai human rights organizations have decided to speak out on exactly this point.

In a statement issued on 15 February 2012, the Human Rights Lawyers Association, Cross Cultural Foundation, Union for Civil Liberty, Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants, Foundation of Muslim Attorney Centre, Asian Institute for Human Rights, Community Resource Centre, Thai Netizen Network, Center for Child Development and Community Network, and Stateless Watch have deemed that “the right of an alleged offender or an accused to temporary release is a very pertinent issue in the criminal justice process.”

They state that:

1. The right to temporary release is a universal and fundamental right that should be accorded equally to all human beings….

The right to temporary release is prescribed for in Section 40(7) of the 2007 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand…. The … right to temporary release is a crucially important legal principle established in bother domestic and international laws. It is an obligation for all parties concerned to follow and implement on an equal basis….

2. Any exceptions made against the right to temporary release have to be based on extremely important circumstances and have to be accompanied by objective and credible evidence….

3. The Court is obliged to interpret the law according to the intent of the law and international standards to uphold human rights and the right to temporary release has to be realized in all cases….

4. Section 39 (2) and (3) of the Section 27 of the 2007 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand primarily upholds the presumed innocence principle.

In concluding, these groups affirm that:

prior to any final judgment … the treatment of the person as if he already committed an offense is not permitted. Therefore, as a result of the denial of bail request, the detention of Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and other alleged offenders or accused during the trial period together with other convicts whose final judgments have been reached is therefore a breach of the Constitutional provision.

Finally, these human rights organizations recommend that the courts grant Somyos and others in similar circumstances, be granted bail. They make an excellent case.

More lese majeste cases to come

10 09 2011

In a report in The Nation on the lese majeste and computer crimes trial of Prachatai’s Chiranuch Premchaiporn there is some grim news for those who have been hoping that the peak season of lese majeste charges may have been behind Thailand with the change of government to a less obviously royalist administration.

Prosecution witness Police Lieutenant Boonlert Kalayanamitr, who was the last witness from the prosecution, told reporters that he didn’t want to say much to the media “because giving interviews will affect the security and the Crown. It’s dangerous.” He did explain that “there were many cases still being pursued…”.

This seemed confirmed in broad terms by Sarinee Achavanuntakul, a key member of the Thai Netizen Network, who stated that “further crackdowns on lese majeste offenders would likely continue, especially ‘under a climate where all [political groups] are competing to become more royalist than others’.”