Govt might get more power to arrest netizens under new law: rights orgs

International rights organisations have expressed concerns that the amendment of the Computer Crime Act might violate the rights to freedom of expression and to privacy.

On Thursday, 26 May 2016, Amnesty International, the Thai Netizen Network (TNN) and Privacy International handed a joint statement to Pol Gen Chatchawan Suksomjit, Chair of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) committee vetting the amended version of the Computer Crime Act.

The statement urged the NLA to reconsider certain articles in the 2007 Computer Crime Act as they violate the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

The rights groups recommended that the act should be amended in accordance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), fearing that the new version of the act might be worse than the current one.

The three organisations have pointed out that Article 14 of the current act could be used to prosecute people who import or distribute online contents which could ‘cause public panic’. As interpretations of what constitutes public panic are broad, this could cause major restraints to internet freedom.

In addition, Article 15 of the act stipulates that internet service providers (ISPs) will face the same penalties as persons who violate Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act, against the importation of illegal online information, if the ISPs cannot prove that they did not cooperate with the offenders of Article 14.

This article leads to self-censorship, the three rights groups stated.

Moreover, Article 20 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act allows the Thai authorities to delete online information which could lead to ‘public unrest and affect public morale’ although such information is not illegal under any law.

“Furthermore, we propose that the NLA should reconsider the act in order to stop prosecuting people and organisations who have been accused of breaking the 2007 Computer Crime Act from peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression,” read the group statement.