Rights groups urge govt to reveal details of Cyber Security Bill

After the Defence Ministry gave the green light to the Cyber Security Bill yesterday, human rights organizations urged the government to reveal details of the bill for public scrutiny.

Amnesty International (AI), iLaw, an internet based human rights advocacy group, and Thai Netizen Network (TNN), a civil society group advocating internet freedom, on Tuesday, 1 March 2016, issued a joint statement to demand that the authorities disclose to the public the Cyber Security Bill, the Protection of Personal Information Bill, and the amended draft of the Computer Crime Act.

“The draft bills are not available to the public, and we think that the people must be informed about them, so that they can discuss whether the contents should be subjected to change or not,” BBC Thai quoted Yingcheep Atchanont, communications officer of iLaw, as saying.

The three human rights organizations said that the draft bills on use of the internet which are now being considered by the cabinet have to be in line with international human rights principles especially the UN principles on digital privacy.

In 2015, the junta’s cabinet approved in principle eight proposed bills which they claimed were to prepare Thailand for the “digital economy”.

The eight draft bills included a Bill for the Development of the Digital Economy and Society, a Cyber Security Bill, a Protection of Personal Information Bill, an amended draft of the Computer Crime Act, and an Electronic Transaction Bill.

The parliament earlier last year passed a law to change the title of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) to the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES). The MDES will be the main agency overseeing the digital economy.

Despite the junta’s rhetoric that the bills would speed the development of the digital economy of the country, six rights groups said in a statement that the real purpose of these bills was merely to tighten national security and the state monopoly over telecommunication resources.

Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator of TNN, last year gave an example of this worrying trend. He said that the proposed Protection of Personal Information Bill, which has existed only as a draft for several years, originally had three representatives from related civil society organizations on the Committee on Protection of Personal Information. But the junta cut the seats of the civil society representatives and replaced them with people from national security agencies.    

According to BBC Thai, Uttama Savanayana, the MDES Minister, said that out of the eight bills the most urgent ones which the Ministry already submitted to the cabinet last month are the amended draft of the Computer Crime Act and the Bill for the Development of Digital Economy and Society.