Thailand’s amendment of the Computer Crime Act

thailandThailand is drafting an amendment to the 2007 Computer Crime Act.

The law, which was was drafted by a junta-appointed interim legislature following the 2006 coup, was designed to put an end to spam, hacking, and other computer-related offenses.

Rights groups, however, have criticized the law’s vague language and its application, which, together with criminal or royal defamation (lese majeste) suits, serve as a tool to stifle dissent in the kingdom.

There has been a marked increase in the number of people charged under the Computer Crime Act, especially since the 2014 coup. The Asian Correspondent, quoting numbers from human rights advocacy group, Fortify Rights, reported 399 convictions under the Computer Crime Act in 2016 alone, compared to just six in 2011. When questions regarding how to minimize the number of convictions were put forth to the panel

Civil society groups have campaigned for the law to be amended by including more precise definitions (e.g., what does the Act mean by “offences”) and decriminalizing libel, however, critics have pointed out that the proposed amendments make things worse by expanding government’s authorities without a similar increase in checks and balances.

Since King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s passing on October 13, authorities have also stepped up its game on eliminating content critical of the monarchy. The Associated Press reported that more than 1,300 websites were shut down last month, which is more than the past five years combined.

These developments are consistent with the military junta’s goal since coming into power in 2014: To streamline and increase state control over the Internet in Thailand. The junta released eight Digital Economy bills in 2015 and launched the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society in 2016–moves which were seen by rights groups as the military tightening their grip over national security and the telecommunications industry.

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On December 5, 2016 at the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) Symposium in Guadalajara, Mexico, I will present a paper I co-authored entitled “Internet Governance During Crises: The changing landscape of Thailand,” which discusses the impact of the 2006 and 2014 coups on the governance of the Internet in Thailand.