Thailand’s newly amended Computer Crimes Act will jeopardise the junta’s ‘Thailand 4.0’ policy of developing the country’s digital economy, says an organisation leading Thailand’s financial technology industry. Allowing authorities to access the personal data of internet users will force businesses out of the country.
On 16 December 2016, Thailand’s junta-appointed legislature, the National Legislative Assembly, unanimously voted to pass an amendment to the controversial Computer Crimes Act. The new law will grant authorities sweeping powers to control and censor online content.
Thai Fintech, a leading organisation in Thailand’s financial technology industry, is most worried that authorities can now access private data without following usual process. Such data includes records of financial transactions, phone calls and texts. Nor are authorities required to keep records of what they do with such data.
“These powers exceed normal legal process whereby authorities request a warrant before having the right to scrutinise private information,” says Korn Chatikavanij, the President of Thai Fintech. “The National Legislative Assembly should question the motives behind giving authorities the right to access personal data. This is a most urgent and serious issue.”
Korn also fears that the law’s definition of content that can be forcibly removed from the web is too broad. Illegal content includes that which ‘threatens stability’, ‘threatens the economy’, ‘is immoral’ and content violating copyright laws.
Nor is the Computer Crime Act in the interests of the junta’s ‘Thailand 4.0’ plans to develop the country’s digital economy.
The law’s ambiguous definition of illegal content will likely cause uncertainty among Thailand’s business community. Especially threatened are internet service providers, who may now be forced to provide to authorities the private data and records of their users.
“Issuing a law that grants authorities the power to access private data goes against those trying to advance ‘Thailand 4.0’ as the new engine of the economy. [The law] will create worries among businesses and investors,” Korn added. “Businesses and investors will begin using servers in other countries. [The law] pushes Fintech businesses to other countries instead of improving Thailand’s quality of life.”