New Cyber Bill rushed through
Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly approved a controversial law this week which could seriously effect how Thailand’s internet users use the web. The main effect of the bill is to outlaw any attempt at bypassing government censors to access any of the thousands of sites that have been censored due to their moral or political purposes.
This single law could put Thailand in the same category as China and Burma with regards to censorship and the lack of a democratic right for free speech.
The bill sailed through its third reading on Wednesday by a vote of 119 to 1. It requires royal endorsement before it can be formally enacted into law. The bill regards as a crime the intention to withhold internet protocol (IP) addresses and violators are subject to severe punishment, according to the NLA special committee assigned to scrutinise the law. The IP is a unique address used to identify computer users while communicating with others on the network. However, the committee said, “ill-intentioned users” often hide or falsify their computer addresses so that they can easily carry out illegal acts and get away with them. The committee believed tighter controls on IP addresses would help tackle the root cause of cyber problems. Penalties apply to all illegal acts using the internet, including those carried out abroad and deemed to “damage the country both directly and indirectly”.
What worries me here is that the people that be have admitted they hardly use the Internet or even know what it is for, so have they consulted the international community for advice or decided that IP address control is the only way to go.
The level of abuse that this bill could be vulnerable to is staggering. If “someone” decides that a political parties website is deemed threatening, the site would be banned. Another worrying part of the bill is “The bill regards as a crime the intention to withhold internet protocol (IP) addresses”
If this single rule is enacted and someone charged under it, Thailand is now on par with China and Burma for censorship and lack of a democratic process.
The technologies which seem to fall under this “bypassing government censors” are:
– Secure Shell
– Virtual Private Networks (VPN) used by millions of companies here in Thailand
– IPSec (again used by many with Windows Networks)
I really hope His Majesty stops this bill from going ahead with such strong restrictions on the public. He is a champion of Human Rights in Thailand and this seems to be against everything he stands for.
What are your thoughts?