Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the Computer Crime Act that took effect on 18 July. It allows the police to seize the computer files and online files of persons suspected of disseminating insulting or pornographic content.
"The Thai military government is using the fight against pornography to conceal an increasingly restrictive policy towards online free expression," the press freedom organisation said. "The government must combat online criminality and the sexual exploitation of human beings without committing new violations of free speech or personal privacy."
The new law requires Internet Service Providers to keep the online data of individual Internet users for 90 days. The authorities are empowered to examine this information without any judicial oversight. The police are also allowed to seize computers if they suspect illegal use has been made of them.
Technologies, information and communication ministry spokesman Vissanu Meeyoo said "the aim of the law is to prevent the owners of computers from transmitting pornographic content or libellous messages."
Supinya Klangnarong, a member of the local NGO Freedom against Censorship in Thailand (FACT), described the law as "a threat and violation of privacy." FACT said the measures "do not aim to prevent, as [the authorities] claim, but to control," adding that the range of websites banned by the government went far beyond the requirements of the fight against pornography and "insults" to the monarchy."
Last April, the authorities blocked the video-sharing site YouTube and several other sites with content critical of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Reporters Without Borders voiced concern about the government's Internet policies at the time.