Regime aims to tighten media control, surveillance

The junta’s National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has given the green light to media reform proposals which will tighten government control and surveillance over online media.

On 3 July 2017, the NRSA voted 144-1 in favour of a report compiled by its Social Media Reform Subcommittee. Two members abstained.

In the report, the Subcommittee suggested that a committee tasked with reforming online media be set up to implement reform plans in accordance with the junta’s 20-year national reform strategy, reasoning that at present the lack of understanding and ethics in using and consuming online media and the lack of the responsibility of media content producers negatively affect society, the economy and the monarchy.  

According to Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, the NRSA Deputy Chair, the reform plan is expected to be carried out within two years.

Controversially, one of the Subcommittee’s proposals is to require mobile phone users to have their fingerprints and faces scanned in order to register mobile phone numbers in addition to identification documents.

A centre to regulate mobile phone ownership will be established under the plan in order to make it easier for the authorities to track down and obtain information on users in case of violations of security laws.

The Subcommittee also proposed to set up another centre tasked with monitoring online media whose content violates public morals.

In an interview with VoiceTV, Arthit Suriyawongkul from Thai Netizen Network commented that tighter registration of mobile phone users will not help solve the problem because people currently have to register with their ID cards.

He said that the real problem lies with the service providers who in some cases sell private information on users. Therefore, if fingerprints of users are also collected, the leakage of user information could cause further damage.

As for the proposal to set up a centre to monitor online media, Arthit said the work of the centre could overlap with the Army Cyber Centre and the Technology Crime Suppression Division whose tasks already overlap.