New Computer Crime Bill, a blank check for censorship: Thai Digital Confederation

The Thai Digital Federation has urged lawmakers to amend the Computer Crime Bill draft, saying that it opens space for authorities to suppress rights to freedom of expression.

Representatives of the Thai Digital Federation (TDF) on Thursday, 25 August 2016, submitted a letter to Pol Gen Chatchawan Suksomjit, head of the National Legislative Assembly’s (NLA) subcommittee for the amendment of the 2007 Computer Crime Act. The representatives included Chawarong Limpatthamapanee, an advisor to TDF; Kanokporn Prasitphon, chairwoman of the Online News Providers Association (SONP); and Suppaseth Chuchaisri, chairman of Thai Programmer Association.

The letter asks the NLA subcommittee, who is currently reviewing the new Computer Crime Bill, to amend certain clauses that could lead to violations of rights to freedom of expression and information in the name of national security.   

Article 20(4) of the new Computer Crime Bill gives authority to the committee appointed by the Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) to censor “online information which are not illegal, but could cause instability and affect good public morale.”

The MICT committee, however, will have to obtain the court’s approval before censoring or removing such online information.

The TDF pointed out that authorities could obviously use the bill to limit people’s rights and liberties, adding that the bill will also ironically affect the development of the digital industries that the government is trying to develop.

Pol Gen Chatchawan accepted the letter from the group and said that the committee will consider the group’s suggestion in the process of amending the 2007 Computer Crime Act.

Last year, Suwapan Tanyuwattana, Minister of the Prime Minister's Office, told the press that the Computer Crime Act amendment intends to add severer penalties for computer crimes related to national security.

“[The committee] has considered increasing the penalties in cases related to national security, especially the use of the internet which affects national security,” Blognone quoted Suwapan. “We want this law to be enacted as soon as possible. [We believe] that it will be up-to-date for the current circumstances.”