Thailand Passes Stricter Cybercrime Law

The Thai junta has recently passed a cybercrime law that will give the government stricter access to the internet.

The Computer Crimes Act was passed with an overwhelming 167 yes votes, five abstentions and no contentions. The act was approved last December 16, 2016. It is now only awaiting the signature of the new king Maha Vajiralongkorn before it officially becomes law.

The cybercrime law is highly contested by critics. Despite this, the results were unanimous.

The controversial move are commented by critics as invasive because it will supposedly give the junta the capacity to probe all citizens with the goal of finding dissenters of the current administration. This increasing focus on cyber control stems from the junta’s general mandate of regulating the freedom to express their opinions. Ever since they came to power in 2014, the Thai junta subdued criticism of them by prohibiting rallies, shutting down websites that advocated negative things about the government, restricting the media, and approving prosecution of critics online.

Ex-policeman and supporter of the cybercrime law, lawmaker Chatchawan Suksomjit commented on the matter saying, “I can reassure that this law is important and necessary but will absolutely not violate personal rights.”

Despite the public hesitation, the government says that this law is essential to modernize the system. Critics and rights advocates noted that the cybercrime law was too vague, effectively enlarging the power of the government to scrutinize and censor the online community.

Versions of the law has already been released. One version was given by The Thai Netizen Network. In this article, it is indicated that violators of the law can face up to five years of incarceration. Violations include the provision of “false information into a computer system that jeopardises national security, public safety, national economic stability or public infrastructure, or causes panic.”

An opposing group has already launched a petition signed by over 300,000 people. Thai Netizen Network representative, Arthit Suriyawongkul emphasized the dangers of the proposed measure saying, “The definition (of this term) is not written in any law, it is just up to the committee. It’s going to be very difficult for people to know what they can and cannot say. It could also be very inconsistent from one government to another.”

There are more regulations under the law including the authorization for officials to request for website activity and traffic data directly from service providers.