Future Forward Seeks to Amend Junta’s Cyber Law

The army's cybersecurity center. Image: ThaiPBS

BANGKOK — Future Forward Party said on Monday that it will push for the amendment of the controversial Cyber Security Act, which grants the state unchecked power to respond to perceived security threats.

Future Forward MP Klaikong Vaidhyakarn said the effort will be launched in November. Expecting strong resistance from government coalition MPs, Klaikong said it will be a hard fight but the party will count on public support to push for the amendment of the controversial law.

Drafted by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly, the law became effective in May this year. It allows the authorities to enact any necessary measures, including hacking and seizing computers, in response to actions deemed to be detrimental to cybersecurity.

One of the people responsible for drafting the law conceded the final product is not perfect, but said he is satisfied with the Act.

“This law shows progress, moving the country forward. To me it’s a small step. I look at the end result and it’s passable,” National Cybersecurity Preparation Committee advisor Bhume Bhumiratana said. “The core concepts are reasonable … The scope is reasonable.”

However, Emilie Pradichit, the director of an NGO that conducted studies into the law, cited numerous flaws in the new Act.

“I don’t think the law is good enough… There exist loopholes for the government to misuse it,” Manusha Foundation’s Emilie said, adding that citizens are at risk of being hacked by their own government.

Issues raised by Emilie include a lack of clear definition over what constitutes a cyber threat. The law should also enforce a requirement mandating solid evidence and not just suspicion for the state to act.

“There’s no separation of power. It’s the people who developed this law who are the ones enforcing the law. So basically, they gave power to themselves,” Emilie said at a panel discussion held at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

She added that the law amounts to government bypassing the need for a court order to access private information. There is currently no no channel for remedy for those who have been wrongly spied upon by the authorities.

“We cannot seek redress, seek compensation,” she said.

Jeff Paine, the Singapore-based managing director of the Asia Internet Coalition, said his organization wrote recommendations to the Thai government, including the need to narrow the definition of cyber threats to pre-empt “opportunities to abuse the power”.