Thai junta gives green light to bill on mass surveillance

The Thai junta has approved a proposed bill which will allow the authorities to conduct mass surveillance on every means of communication in the name of “national security”.

According to Thai Netizen Network, the cabinet on Tuesday gave the green light to the proposed Cyber Security bill to establish a National Committee for Cyber Security, under the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES), whose former title was the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT).

The Cyber Security Bill was one of eight proposed bills on telecommunications which are aimed at restructuring and tightening control of telecommunications in Thailand.

In the draft, the National Committee for Cyber Security will be operated under the supervision of the Minister of Digital Economy and Society to oversee threats to national cyber security, which is defined as cyber threats related to national security, military security, stability, economic security, and interference on internet, satellite, and telecommunications networks.

It should be noted that content defaming the Thai monarchy, which violates Article 112 of the Criminal Code or the lèse majesté law, is strongly viewed by the junta and previous governments as a threat to national security.

Most importantly, the committee is authorized to access all communication traffic via all communication devices, such as post, telephone, mobile phone, internet, and other electronic devices.

The committee will also have the authority to order all public and private organizations to cooperate against any perceived threats to national cyber security.

In addition to this, the junta cabinet has also previously approved a proposal from the Royal Thai Police to amend the 1934 Criminal Procedure Code to allow the police to intercept communication devices of criminal suspects.

The NBTC and Special Branch Police (SBP), the police division responsible for crimes related to national security, agreed during a meeting last week to give power to ISPs to block lèse majesté websites.

Many of these measures were introduced to pursue lèse majesté cases most of which were allegedly committed online after the coup d’état in May 2014. Besides being charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Crime Code, suspects who post lèse majesté content on the internet are usually also charged under Article 14 of the CCA for importing illegal content into a computer system.

In September 2014, Prachatai received reports that the Thai authorities planned to implement a surveillance device starting from 15 September to sniff out Thai Internet users, specifically targeting those producing and reading lèse majesté content, a report says. Although the report is yet to be confirmed, it has created a greater climate of fear among the media.