A proposed cyber security law in Thailand that would potentially give a new government agency sweeping powers has alarmed businesses and activists which say it sacrifices privacy and the rule of law, reported Reuters.
The planned legislation, likely to gain approval by year-end, would enable the authorities to spy on internet traffic, order the removal of content, or even seize computers without judicial oversight.
It would grant a newly created National Cybersecurity Committee (NCSC) the authority to access the computers of individuals or private companies, make copies of information, and enter private property without court orders. Criminal penalties would be imposed for those who do not comply.
The NCSC could also summon businesses or individuals for interrogation and force them to hand over information belonging to other parties.
In a letter addressed to the Thai government seen by Reuters, the US-ASEAN Business Council, comprising tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon as members, said that cybersecurity policy should be respective of privacy and rule of law and enforcing cyberspace cannot come at the cost of sacrificing privacy, civil liberties, and rule of law. It also warned that requirements such as forcing companies to alert the agency of cyber threats or even anticipated ones would impose “a very heavy burden” on businesses and should be removed.
Singapore-based industry group Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), which represents the four tech giants and other major Internet companies, also warned that the law may drive businesses out of Thailand, said Reuters.
Mr Somsak Khaosuwan, deputy permanent secretary of the Thai Ministry of Digital Economy, which is in charge of the law, told Reuters the government is now discussing revisions of the draft and would take the concerns into account.
Civil rights advocates worry Thailand’s military junta, which actively censors the internet and often casts criticism of the government as a threat to national security, will use the new law to further codify its censorship regime.
In a joint statement seen by Reuters, the Telecommunications Association of Thailand and the Thai Internet Service Provider Association also said they were concerned about the government’s efforts to “regulate content”.
Thailand’s legislation is the latest in a series of recent laws in Asian countries, including China and Vietnam, that aim to assert government control over the Internet.