Thai authorities to step up surveillance via ‘single internet gateway’

The cabinet under the junta has ordered relevant agencies to speed up the process to reduce multiple internet gateways to a single one in order to increase the efficiency of the state’s surveillance system.     

The cabinet under Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, last month has given a green light to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) and relevant agencies to push ahead with the process to implement a single gateway internet system before the end of the 2015 fiscal budget.

The MICT is ordered to report the progress on the plan to the cabinet before the end of September 2015.

The plan to reduce internet gateways was initially proposed by Pol Gen Somyos Pumpanmuang, the chief of the Royal Thai Police, in June 2015. He reasoned that through a single gateway system, it will be much easier for the state authorities to monitor, filter, delete, and intercept information on the internet that could be deemed inappropriate.

In the same month, the police cooperated with the MICT to study the feasibility of the plan, including, the Ministry of Justice, if certain laws need to be issued to support the implementation of the single gateway system.

Currently, there are about 10 international internet gateway operators in Thailand. According to Surachai Srisarakham, the Permanent Secretary of the MICT, six internet gateway operators will cooperation with the national single internet gateway master plan.   

Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator of the Thai Netizen Network (TNN), an Internet freedom advocacy group, told Prachatai that the idea to reduce the internet gateways to a single one was proposed only a few days after the 2014 coup d’état by the ex-MICT permanent secretary.

He mentioned that the idea was formulated under the logic that Thai people in present use social media inappropriately without control.

The TNN coordinator added that the MICT then even proposed the idea of creating a special version of Facebook for Thailand and to require people to fill in their ID numbers before using the internet.

“We can see that this sort of idea came together with the coup d’état,” said Arthit.