THE HIGHLY controversial Computer Crime bill draft needs to be in place to protect national security due to global cyber threats, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the new bill does not damage people’s rights as suggested by some organisations. The proposed legislation will protect the public from various threats on cyber security, including terrorism, personal data theft, fraud and online crimes against children.
During the weekly briefing, Prayut said: “If we have insufficient measures, there could be conflicts in many aspects. We have seen terrorism and transnational crimes. They also use [online] channels. Please understand us.”
Approved by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly last Friday, the draft bill, an amended version from its 2007 predecessor, faced strong criticism on the grounds that it might infringe on people’s rights and online privacy.
Users of social media have expressed concern over Article 20 which requires the set-up of a nine-member committee to screen and remove contents deemed “disrupting peace, order and good morality of people” with court approval.
They say the definition of “peace, order and good morality” could be broadly interpreted by powers-that-be and used as tools against people with different opinions than the junta.
Previously, the computer crime law has been used by the Prayut government along with the lese majeste and sedition laws, to tackle online movements such as sharing an |infographic accusing the junta of committing graft.
Prayut yesterday said the definition of “morality” should already be clear.
“We are a Buddhist country. Why don’t some people understand its meaning as in [the law draft]?” he said. “Morality is about peace, order and national security. If this doesn’t make sense, we can’t do anything else.”
Regarding the role of the online content screening committee, he said they will prioritise the severity of the content deemed harmful to peace and order and committee members will be appointed based on qualifications.
“If we don’t trust the committee members’ integrity, how are we going to enforce the law?” he said.
The NLA’s decision to pass the draft law led to threats to disable government websites.
Among the targets was the Government House website, which was inaccessible for a few hours on Monday. Prayut said authorities have taken measures to counter hackers and it is normal for a website to go down for a while when it has too many visitors.
“I think many people understand reasons behind the bill. They just don’t speak out loud,” he said.
“Many who speak happen to be against it. I wonder if they really understand it. Some may only press ‘like’ on [opposing posts] without knowing what law drafters try to explain.”
Interior Minister Anupong Pao-chinda said the government could take legal action against those responsible for hacking into government websites.
“We have already put in place defensive measures,” he said, adding that some government websites might be vulnerable to cyber criminals.
Pol General Srivara Ransibrah-manakul, the deputy national police chief, said investigators are going after those who have hacked government websites and wrongdoers can face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to Bt100,000 or both.
According to Srivara, hacking into the computer systems of government agencies is a threat to national |security.
Meanwhile, General Udomdej Sitabut, the deputy defence minister, said the defence ministry’s websites are not affected by hackers as threatened by those opposing the new computer crime law due to precautionary measures taken by computer security experts.
On the upcoming cyber-security bill, he said, there should be no problem and the government will have to create a good understanding on this matter.
Surapong Tovichakchaikul, a former foreign minister of Pheu Thai party, said the government should listen to public concerns on the new law which critics have said would restrict the people’s freedom of expression and access to information.