Junta tightens cyber-snooping 

The authorities have been patrolling the internet. Source: Wikimedia

The Thai junta is pushing ahead with several bills to tighten cybersecurity with activists fearing deeper online surveillance.

The amendment of the Computer Crime Act raised concern over the vague definition of what constitutes “falsifying data”, which has been used beside criminal and royal defamation suits. Initially introduced in 2007, the act was officially designed to protect people against internet scams, hackers and identity forgers, threatening up to five years in jail. 

Chairing the hearing, Police General Chatchawan Suksomjit said the new law should be able to protect online rights and not give excessive power to the authorities.

“The purpose of the old Computer Crime Act is exactly what is being amended right now, which is to prevent people from using computers to commit fraud and manipulation for personal gain. It wasn’t designed to be used for defamation charges,” said Police Colonel Siam Boonsom of the Technology Crime Suppression Division.

This year the junta launched the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society to deepen control over online comments. Some seats on the committee that will screen online comments are apparently being reserved for representatives of NGOs. Surangkana Wayuparb, a Legislative Assembly member, said: “In the past, if the authorities wanted to block a certain website, they could do so by seeking approval from the minister and then go to the court. 

“This lacks participation from businesses and NGOs in the vetting process in deciding whether there are sufficient grounds for the blocking of websites. So we want to create a better, more balanced and systematic mechanism for this.”

Parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of 2017 may be further delayed, according to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.

“The road map remains unchanged, the elections are necessary, and they should be held as planned, but some circumstances may emerge that will delay the road map implementation,” Prawit said, according to Channel 3.

Prawit said it would be unreasonable to insist on holding the elections if the situation in the country was unfavourable.

Another deputy premier, Wissanu Krea-ngam, also said that the parliamentary elections might be postponed, since the 10 laws for the new constitution might not be ready in time. A constitutional committee has completed four of the 10 laws.