Single Gateway ‘Still Necessary,’ Deputy PM Prawit Says

Opponents of Thailand’s single gateway project have adopted a personification of the project called Nong Kalaland by artist Wisaruth Wisidh.

BANGKOK — Confirming the fears of digital rights activists who said a plan to bring the internet  under direct government control never went away, a member of the junta said Wednesday that a single internet gateway was still necessary.

Citing Redshirt internet radio channels operating from Laos as an example, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said the single point of control for all internet traffic, a project widely known as single gateway, remains necessary for the sake of national security.

Speaking to reporters, Gen. Pravit, who is also a junta member, said the military regime was “trying our best” to not trample on rights.

“We are trying our best to take care about it,” he said. “Everyone must be under the same law.”

His comments came as advocates of online freedom campaign against the latest draft of the Computer Crime Act, which is expected to be approved Thursday by the junta’s rubber stamp legislature.

If approved, the draft will be submitted to the King for his endorsement in 20 days.

Gaining control of the kingdom online, one of the last semi-public venues for open expression and dissent, has been a goal of the military government since it seized power in 2014.

Officials announced last year they had scrapped the plan after it was met with public outrage. It instead rebranded the effort as part of a digital economy initiative while moving forward parallel efforts such as rewriting cybercrime law to grant broader powers to authorities to intercept and censor communications without due process.

Rights groups such as the Thai Netizen Network, Amnesty International Thailand and Internet Law Reform Dialogue, or iLaw, have urged people to campaign against it. The number of people signing an online petition to stop the law on Change.org has soared in the past few days to more than 120,000 names.

Those rewriting the law heard a range of suggestions from activists and the private sector at a public hearing on Nov. 23, none of which were addressed in the latest draft released Friday.

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