Thai authorities still pushing ahead with single internet gateway plan

Despite the recent cyber-attacks on government websites from netizens opposed to the single internet gateway, the Thai authorities say that they will continue to study its feasibility.

On Thursday afternoon, 1 October 2015, Uttama Savanayana, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology (MICT), held a press briefing about symbolic cyber-attacks on several government websites on Wednesday night by internet users who oppose government plans to reduce internet gateways to one.

The cyber-attacks, which according to a campaign that went viral online, were scheduled to start at 10 pm yesterday with the MICT website being the first target, started early at 6 pm, causing the websites of the MICT, Government House and the Ministry of Finance to go out of service one after another.  

According to Uttama, the crashes of the government websites mentioned were caused from overloads. He explained that normally only about 6,000 people on a daily average access MICT’s website, but last night more than 100,000 users were accessing the website at the same time. Therefore, it was clear that it was an attack by anti-single gateway netizens.

Contrary to the announcement of the Crime Suppression Division this morning that those who instigated such cyber-attacks could face five years in jail, the Minister said that no one will be prosecuted unless someone files a complaint against the attackers.

Uttama urged the public to try to understand the plan to implement the single gateway system more thoroughly, saying that it was intended to make Thailand more competitive in the online economy in parallel with the Digital Economy Bill. He added that the proposal is not yet definite and that the MICT and other relevant agencies are now studying its feasibility.  

The Minister mentioned that the government does not intend that the plan will curb internet freedom, but it is just that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, is worried that Thai youth might access and use online information inappropriately.

“The government does not have a plan to implement these things, but just to study it to look after the youth. Don’t worry that internet freedom will be taken away,” said Uttama.

On the same day, however, Songporn Komolsuradej, the MICT Permanent Secretary, mentioned that if there is damage from the cyber-attacks, the relevant agencies can press charges against the instigators.

ML Panadda Diskul, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, also told the press on Thursday that Gen Prayut never mentioned that the single internet gateway plan is a must and that the plan is still being studied by the MICT and other agencies.

The plan to reduce the number of internet gateways was initially proposed by Pol Gen Somyos Pumpanmuang, the former 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.

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 one was proposed only a few days after the 2014 coup d’état by the then MICT Permanent Secretary.

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

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