Junta to pass bill allowing police to intercept communications

The junta has given the green light to a new version of the Criminal Procedure Code that allows police to intercept communications.   

On 25 April 2017, Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesperson of the Prime Minister's Office, announced that the cabinet has approved an amended draft of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

Under the section on evidence collection, the bill allows police to intercept communications to and from criminal suspects.

The junta leader’s spokesman clarified that there is no need for people to fear that the new bill will affect privacy, since the police will need court permission before tapping the phones of suspects.

But Kanathip Thongraweewong, a privacy law academic at St. John’s University, points out that the bill provides no ‘public oversight’ mechanisms to keep the interception procedures in check.

In other words, there are no mechanisms to prevent police abusing the basic rights of criminal suspects once the court has authorised the interception.

Allowing police to intercept communications was proposed in Article 131/2 of the new CPC draft, approved by the Council of State and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) in early 2015.  

The new draft states that police can seek court permission to intercept the communications of anyone suspected of committing or preparing to commit a crime related to national security or public morals, including crimes where it is difficult to find evidence. The Article, however, states that the interception can only be performed under court supervision. Police are obligated to provide regular reports on the interception process, which cannot last beyond 70 days.

According to Pol Col Siriphon Kusonsinwut of the Office of Legal Affairs and Litigation of the Royal Thai Police, the adoption of the 1997 Constitution gave more protection to suspects but left the police with very limited human and technical resources. The power to intercept the communications of suspects will improve the efficiency of the Thai police, allowing them to cope with the complexity of crimes in the digital age.

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