BANGKOK — Online activists have given the military government eight days to cancel its plan to route all internet traffic through a single point of control – or else see an escalation of their cyberattacks.
After calling Friday for the plan to be abandoned by 14 Oct., the activists united online as “Citizens Against Single Gateway: Thailand Internet Firewall” repeated their ultimatum yesterday, promising to cripple government websites should the government not cancel four Cabinet Resolutions authorizing the project.
“The government still has not changed its stance at all, which only means one thing: The government is still pushing ahead with the implementation of single gateway, in accordance with the existing Cabinet Resolutions (which are legally-binding),” the statement read. “Therefore, Citizens Against Single Gateway is forced to issue a louder voice of warning to the government once again.”
The group listed eight government websites, including the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, and encouraged its supporters to bring the sites down in a massive click-and-refresh attack – a rudimentary cyberattack known as distributed denial of service, or DDOS.
Meanwhile military officials have flat-out denied they have initiated the project, insisting the plan is still “under study.” Steps appear to have been taken to make that retroactively true — one of the first of four Cabinet Resolutions authorizing the project has been removed from the cabinet’s website.
Although the activists managed to bring down six government agencies’ websites on 30 Sept., they failed last night to repeat the same feat. The Citizens Against Single Gateway later posted to Facebook a statement saying the government has rerouted its servers to other countries.
“If the state is still stubborn, we will use a heavier weapon in the next round,” the statement said, adding, “Please wait for another official statement about our stances tomorrow at 10pm.”
Maj. Gen. Rittee Intravudh, director of the army’s cyberwarfare unit, told reporters today the attack failed because internet users refused to become tools of the activists.
“I’d like to thank netizens and the media for helping to create understanding, so that this wave of dissent is decreased, and for not becoming someone’s instruments,” he said. “Targeted websites did not encounter any disruption to their function or the display of information beneficial to people who view the sites.”
He also said that the army is collecting IP addresses of users to take legal action against them for their campaign.
The timing of the activists' deadline has symbolic value: a student uprising toppled a previous military junta on 14 Oct., 1973.
The military junta first floated the idea of building a single gateway soon after seizing power from the elected government in May 2014.
Officials insist that channeling all internet traffic through a single choke point – similar to the “Great Firewall of China” – would allow law enforcement to easily track down individuals who commit online crimes and post messages deemed harmful to national security.
A series of Cabinet Resolutions, signed 30 June, 21 July, 4 Aug. and 25 Aug., explicitly ordered relevant agencies to “urgently” install the single gateway. Under Thai law, Cabinet Resolutions are legally-binding government instructions. Their legality can only be repealed by another Cabinet Resolution.
The 30 June resolution, which specifically ordered officials to “implement a single gateway to be used as a device to control inappropriate websites and flow of news and information from overseas through the internet system” can no longer be found on the cabinet’s website. The meeting minutes are still accessible.
“How can the government cancel that project when the government and related agencies have insisted many times already that we haven’t begun to do anything at all?” Maj. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak said. “… It’s just something to study as a way to prevent danger from social media.”
Suwaphan Tanyuwattana of the Prime Minister’s Office, repeated the same claim in an interview yesterday.
“[The Prime Minister] has clearly stated that we are not moving ahead with the single gateway.”
He also warned the activists’ DDOS campaign would only “cause trouble to the nation and the people.”
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