Almost 10,000 people signed the petition urging the junta not to pass the digital economy bill which will give the state unprecedented power to create mass surveillance and control communication in the name of national security.

Thai Netizen Network, an advocacy group promoting online privacy and internet freedom, campaign for the petition on change.org, an open online petition, last week to collect names to halt the legislative process of the digital economy bills, which have been approved by the junta’s cabinet earlier this month.

More than 5,000 people have signed the petition on the page within 24 hours after the page was created.

The Thai Netizen have made the following remarks on the digital economy bills:  

Stop sniffing Stop the “Cyber Security bill” -- In order to promote digital economy, freedom of expression must first be protected.

Recently, there are several proposed bills related to information, and communication technology. The cabinet has approved in principle ten bills in the series. Three more are on the queue to be approved.

We, the signatories, are concerned that these 10+3 bills violate rights and liberty of the people and operators in several ways, monopolize the resources and do not promote the digital economy as claimed. They in fact is “Digital security. We have the following remarks:  

  • These bills in fact are not digital economy, but bills on national security which bestow vast power to the authorities.
  • These bills, especially the eight bills which were hastily proposed and approved by the cabinet on 6 January 2015. The bills were not on the agenda of the meeting. Some state agencies have never seen the bills before. The bills which will extensively affect people’s life and economy are not adequately deliberated by both the people and state authorities.
  • There are at least five amendment drafts and brand new bills -- the amendment of Computer Crime Act, Cyber Security, Digital Transaction, Inducement Suppression bills, and the amendment of Criminal Procedure bill) which allow the authorities to search, confiscate, having access and intercept without any check and balance from credible judges and in some cases, they can be conducted without strong evidence. This is the violation of freedom of expression, right to privacy and right to personal information, and will affect the confidence of business operator related to information and communication.
  • The draft amendment of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Technology (NBTC) bill destroys the independence of this regulator and will possibly pave the way for the retrieval of the frequencies radio frequencies to the hands of the government and the military as they were before the enactment of 1997 Constitution. It will destroy the principle that radio frequencies are public resources and will also destroy the mechanism of the free market. The objectives of the fund which now is from the license fee of the radio frequencies will be gravely modified. It is not the fund for research for public good -- promoting consumer protection, social enterprise, professional ethics, accessibility, media literacy of people with physical challenges, elderly and the marginalized -- will be changed into a fund for state authorities and private sectors for loans.  
  • The draft amendment of the NBTC does not tackle the problem on the transparency and accountability. The bill will establish another agency which has rather similar financial and administrative structure
  • All the bills clearly lack the mechanism to protect rights and liberty of the consumers. Moreover, each committee does not have the quota for representatives on rights as the committee members. The most obvious one is the committee on the protection of personal information under the Protection of Personal Information bill. The three seats for personals on consumers rights were cut and replaced with two seats for representatives on national security. They also share secretary office with the committee on National Cyber Security, whose roles are in conflict. This may lead to conflict of interest and poor check and balance mechanism.

On Saturday, at the public forum on law reform related Surangkana Wayuparb, the director of Electronic Transaction Development Agency (ETDA), told the media that some of the contents of the controversial Digital Economy bills are mistakes and that the bills are not the national security bills as civil society understood.

“We have to accept that with limited time because of the attempt to finish [drafting the bills] before the election along with many other bills and organic laws to be completed, this might cause mistakes [in the Digital Economy Bills] in some issues,” said Surangkana.

“We admit our mistakes, particularly Article 35 of the Cyber Security Bill (CSB), as our working team had to rush drafting all 10 bills so we could enforce them before the next general election,” the Bangkok Post quoted Surangkana as saying.

Article 35 of the CBS states that for the purpose of performing their duties under this Act, the Officials who have been entrusted in writing by the Secretary shall have the following powers;

  • to issue letters asking questions or requesting a State agency or any person to give testimony, submit an explanation in writing, or submit any account, document, or evidence for the purpose of inspection or obtaining information for the benefit of the execution of this Act;
  • to issue letters requesting State agencies or private agencies to act for the benefit of the NCSC’s performance of duty;
  • to gain access to information on communications, either by post, telegram, telephone, fax, computer, any tool or instrument for electronic media communication or telecommunications, for the benefit of the operation for the maintenance of Cybersecurity.

The performance under (3) shall be as specified by the Rules issued by the Council of Ministers.     

In response to the question whether the junta will monopolize the distribution of the radio frequency, the ETDA director said “I confirm that the government does not intend to intervene with the radio frequencies.”

Maj Gen Pichet Kongsri, a member of one of the eight digital economy working group led by Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, said at the forum in response to many criticisms that the digital economy bills are actually national security bill in disguise “Currently, as for the ‘national security’ issue that many are concerned, please look interpret this in the wider context which does not imply about the national security of the state, but the overall picture of society, politics, economy, and individuals all of which have to be balanced.”

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BANGKOK, 26 January 2015: Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau launched its ASEAN Rising Trade Show campaign to pull more business for exhibitions in five key sectors over the next three years. The five key rising sectors are: automotive; energy; infrastructure; food & agriculture; and health & wellness. It will involve substantial support grants for exhibition […] Read more...
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Bangkok’s Military Court dismissed a petition submitted by a prominent red-shirt figure questioning whether the jurisdiction of the military court over civilian cases violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  

The Military Court of Bangkok on Friday morning ruled to reject the petition submitted by Sombat Boonngam-anong (aka nuling), an anti-coup red-shirt activist accused of defying the junta’s orders and instigating rebellion against the coup-makers in June 2014.

The petition was submitted to the military court in order to allow the Constitutional Court to interpret whether the junta’s Announcements No. 37/2014 and 38/2014 on the jurisdiction of the military courts violate the ICCPR. However, the military court simply dismissed the request.

Sombat is the founder of the Mirror Foundation and a well-known political activist who is the leader of the red-shirt ‘Red Sunday’ group.

He is charged with failing to report to the junta twice, instigating rebellion against the coup-makers under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, and importing computer content related to offences against national security under Article 14 (3) of the Computer Crime Act.    

He was arrested on 5 June 2014 and was brought to unknown locations for detention. He was however later brought to Bangkok Remand Prison during the interrogation period.

After he suggested that the red shirts should stop going out to protest and that he had decided to stop defying the junta and wished instead to cooperate with the NCPO, he was granted bail in July 2014.  

In 2011, Bangkok North Municipal court sentenced Sombat to six months in prison and fined him 6,000 baht with the jail term suspended for leading a demonstration against the emergency decree on Lad Phrao Road in eastern Bangkok, on 21 May 2010, two days after the government’s crackdown on the red shirts at Ratchaprasong.     

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