Thai authorities say no surveillance of Line messages

The Thai authorities have denied reports that they are intercepting a popular smartphone chat application to hunt down lèse majesté suspects.

Pornchai Rujiprapa, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology Ministry (MICT), said the report which cited him as saying that the MICT is monitoring about 30 million accounts of Thai Line users was false, according to a report by Prachachat Turakij, released on Tuesday night.

He said it was merely a misunderstanding that the MICT can monitor Line and that it is much easier to find evidence of lèse majesté and others crimes via Facebook and websites where the IP address can be tracked. If the Ministry needs information on Line, it will have to cooperate with its headquarters.

“I merely said don’t send [lèse majesté] messages via Line because the police can make arrests when people file complaints with the messages as evidence, not that the MICT was monitoring the chat traffic on Line. And I warned people to be careful not to share the [lèse majesté] messages because it is illegal according to the 2007 Computer Crime Act.” Prachachat quoted Pornchai as saying.

On Tuesday, Daily News reported that Pornchai claimed that the Ministry could monitor Line, a popular smartphone messenger app, to target lèse majesté suspects.

“The MICT can monitor all the messages shared on the Line application, especially defamation, lèse majesté, and messages related to national security, all of which are especially targeted,” reported Daily News.

After the false report, a spokesperson of the Line Company in Thailand confirmed that Line messages are private according to international privacy law and Line Company principles. However, the company said that if the Thai authorities wanted to intercept Line messages, a court warrant would need to be presented to the company and that it is up to the company office in Japan whether the clients’ messages can be investigated or not.

Pornchai added that defamation complaints on Line Chat have been increasing, but there has not yet been any case in which the MICT needed to ask the Line Company in Japan for cooperation in an investigation.

Line is a smartphone application popular in many Asian countries, which operates like Skype. Users can share pictures, send messages, and make free calls. According to Pornchai, there are approximately 33 million Line users in Thailand and almost 40 million messages are sent each day in the country.

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