The Thai government - which came to power via the democratically-limited military coup route in 2014 - has just passed a law that has human rights activists alarmed. Ostensibly designed for cybersecurity purposes, the vague wording of the bill effectively allows the government to seize data and equipment in cases where it's deemed to be a national emergency.
That means the law now allows for internet traffic monitoring and access to private data without a court order. The bill passed by 133 votes to zero, although 16 legislators were absent.
These laws would be alarming in any country, but Thailand's past form doesn't exactly inspire confidence that the government will use its new powers responsibly. A man is currently only a tiny fraction of the way through a 35-year prison sentence for criticising the Thai royal family on social media, for example.
The Asia Internet Coalition - an alliance of technology businesses including Facebook, Google and Apple - is one group that has sounded alarm bells. Jeff Paine, the group's managing director said that it is "deeply disappointed that Thailand's National Assembly has voted in favour of a Cybersecurity Law that overemphasises a loosely-defined national security agenda, instead of its intended objective of guarding against cyber risks.
"Protecting online security is a top priority; however, the Law's ambiguously defined scope, vague language and lack of safeguards raises serious privacy concerns for both individuals and businesses, especially provisions that allow overreaching authority to search and seize data and electronic equipment without proper legal oversight.
"This would give the regime sweeping powers to monitor online traffic in the name of an emergency or as a preventive measure, potentially compromising private and corporate data."
It's hard to imagine the statement forcing a change of heart, but it's hard to argue with a single word of it. Well, other than the American spellings, but we already edited those out for you. µ
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