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Online censorship ‘reloaded’ (2)

Yu-Kyung Lee, Bangkok/Thailand, 11 November 2015


Cyber attack on government sites

Censorship in Thailand under the military government has become alarming.

Yingcheep Atchanot, project manager of Internet Diologue on Law Reform (or iLaw), explained that  Martial Law section 9 authorizes to inspect message, letter, telegraph, package, parcel or other things transmitting within the area under the Martial law. “No limitation of time period. No requirement of court warrant” he said at the FCCT discussion. The Martial law has been replaced by Section 44 last April, which is said to be worse than Martial Law. It gives Prime Minister unlimited power to any order “for the sake of the reforms in any field,..the prevention or suppression of any act detrimental to national order or security, royal throne, national economy or public administration…”   

Yet, the Junta has had difficulty to wield unlimited power when it comes to cyber world.

According to iLaw, “minimum evidence the authorities need before arrest someone (related online crime)” are three ; IP address from website administrator, name and house address of the IP address owner from Internet Service Provider (or ISP), and evidence in the computer of suspects. Thus, it’s essential that authority needs ‘cooperation’ from Internet Server Provider. 

“It might be difficult to control when there are multiple ISPs” said iLaw’s Atchanot. He also said some 100,000 URLs have been blocked for lese majeste contents since 2014 coup. Many of them were foreign site.

One of the Thailand’s English daily <The Nation> has recently reported that the country has 3,400 Facebook users - the highest in the region. ‘2 hours and 35 minutes per day’ is another record for daily use of Facebook. This is higher than the world average. If Single Gateway would be enforced, information on Facebook and other SNS – many of them are from abroad- would be under government staunch watch eye, while small businesses utilizing Facebook would be affected.

Prime Minister Prayuth has denied Single Gateway was a Cabinet resolution. On October 9, for instance, he has mentioned of Single Gateway on his regular program ‘Returning Happyness to the People’. He said “just a matter under discussion”  “but it was leaked and publicized” He went on to say something unusual. “We have to respect human rights and this has to be in line with the law. If it’s possible then go (Single Gateway)” he said. “But if it is against the law and violation of human rights, then it cannot be done.”

‘Citizens opposing Single Gateway Internet Firewall’, or ‘F5 Cyber Warriors(facebook)
‘Citizens opposing Single Gateway Internet Firewall’, or ‘F5 Cyber Warriors(facebook)

However, ‘F5 Cyber warriors’ did not believe in PM’s words. They put second deadline to officially cancel it instead. Otherwise, another resistance would start, they warned. The deadline was 23:30 on October 14. Around 23:10 of the day, 20 minutes before the deadline, suggestion has been posted ; ‘attack the site of Ministry of Foreign Affairs’, MFA site got downed even before the deadline. MITC site was followed to be down. Subsequently, ‘F5 Cyber Warriors’ have vowed to upgrad its cyber war, demanding “all of officials who have planned Single Gateway to resign”.  They also have demanded Prime Minister has to stop abuse Section 44 power to arrest anti government dissents.

“Do not defame the nation and government” PM Prayuth

On October 19, another Friday with “Returning Happyness” has begun. In the program, Prime Minister Prayuth has nearly reversed what he said 10 days ago.

“If you say we should not have the single gateway, can you prevent your group from writing things that defame the nation and government?” he said.

“If you can’t, then don’t tell me what method should be used”.

This was also a reverse of what deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has said days ago. Somkid, in an economic forum, has reportedly “we will not talk about this – Single Gateway – anymore. If we say we won’t do it, we won’t do it”. Reuters picked it up titling its report “Thailand scraps unpopular Internet ‘Great Firewall’ plan”. The report has failed to predict PM’s reverse.        

By now, Prawut and his Cyber Warriors have declared full scale of Cyber War which will start from 10 am on October 22. The government owned telecommunication CAT, the most cooperative one for Single Gateway, was hacked on the day. ‘Anonymous’ has displayed the hacked picture on its tweet. It is speculated that international hacking group has done it, or perhaps cooperative operation of ‘F5 Cyber Warriors’ and international hacking group. Whatever it is, all anonymous. Days before this attack, Prawut has clarified their Cyber Warfare, “This is a real war, not a game.”  

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