Thai authorities to force free Wi-Fi users to register for national security

In a bid to control communication in Thailand, the Thai junta has approved a plan to force all free Wi-Fi and prepaid phone users to register, claiming national security.

Takorn Tantasith, the Secretary General of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), revealed on Wednesday that the junta’s cabinet has approved an NBCT proposal to make the registration of pre-paid phone users and free Wi-Fi users the nation’s top priority.   

Takorn said that the NBCT will cooperate with Interior Ministry, Labour Ministry, and the Royal Thai Police to promote and impose legal measures in order to enforce registration. One of the measures will be to cancel the phone numbers of those who do not register.

Free Wi-Fi providers must also come up with measures to have users registered as well, added the NBCT Secretary General.  

According to Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the deputy spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office, the measure is necessary for maintaining national security, claiming that the measure will help crack down on crime, especially drug trafficking and inappropriate use of the internet.

Sansern added that currently 1.4 million of the 90 million prepaid numbers in Thailand are registered. The authorities will force the rest to have their numbers registered within six months. Those who fail to do so will face legal measures which are yet to be determined.

Last month, the junta cabinet approved the Cyber Security Bill which will allow the authorities to access information on personal computers, cell phones and other electronic devices without a court order.

The NBTC and Special Branch Police (SBP), responsible for crimes related to national security, agreed during a meeting last week to give ISPs the authority to block lèse majesté websites as they see fit.

Since the coup d’état in May 2014, most alleged lèse majesté offences were committed online. 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. The internet providers and intermediaries are also liable under Article 15 of the CCA.

Viewing the rise of lèse majesté cases with alarm since it is perceived as a national security concern, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader, pressed the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) to intensify the crackdown on lèse majesté websites.