BANGKOK — Online activists announced last night they will launch a full-scale assault against the military government Tuesday after it ignored their demand it issue a cabinet resolution scrapping the single internet gateway policy.
After earlier giving an ultimatum of 12 days for the junta to formally cancel the project, the self-proclaimed “Thailand F5 Cyber Army” announced last night it will attack government websites and servers, and then escalate them weekly for the next month until such a resolution is issued.
“As the government ignored our previous warning and the deadline is due, we now declare a cyber war against the dictator government,” read the statement posted last night to the Citizens Against Single Gateway group on Facebook.
The group posted on Facebook four demands they said must be met.
Those behind the Facebook page are anonymous, but their cause has drawn support by tapping into anxiety online about government interference with the internet.
Since the plan to build a system to funnel all internet traffic through a single channel erupted into controversy, government officials have insisted no action has been taken. Both junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha and the telecom minister have said it was only “under study” to protect national security and prosecute online criminals.
Speaking at an economic forum today, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the plan had been halted.
"We will not talk about this any more. If we say we won't do it, we won't do it," Somkid was quoted saying at the meeting in a Reuters report.
Such assurances have done little to placate the furor online, where activists have pointed to a series of cabinet resolutions between June 30 and Aug. 25 which explicitly laid out a plan to “to control inappropriate websites and flow of news and information from overseas.”
Those resolutions, as has been pointed out, became legally binding when published.
In addition to calling for a new resolution to cancel those previously issued, the statement also demanded the government issue an order protecting online freedom and compel Prime Minister Prayuth to declare he will not use his special powers under Article 44 to shield those responsible or prosecute activists. It also said officials responsible for the plan must resign.
Those demands have little chance of being met or taken seriously.
Whether those involved in the online opposition can muster a crippling attack remains to be seen. Their first attack on Sept. 30 involved an unsophisticated method of bringing government web servers to their knees: Rapidly refreshing web pages until the servers were overwhelmed. The government has since taken measures to protect their web servers by routing requests through proxies outside of Thailand.
Regardless, messages online from the group claim it will paralyze the system of targeted government agencies for several days – not just a few hours as occurred in previous attacks. No specific targets have been publicly announced.
On Oct. 5, Suwaphan Tanyuwattana of the Prime Minister’s Office warned such actions would only serve to “cause trouble to the nation and the people.”
Master Poll, a poll of unknown provenance or methodology about public policy which appeared following the May 2014 coup from a group called the “Thai Researchers in Community Happiness Association,” released survey results today claiming most people aren't aware of the issue.
Conducted Oct. 5 through yesterday, the poll said 79.7 percent of people polled did not know about the single gateway issue, and 91.4 percent had not studied it. It also said 70.9 percent felt insecure about their online privacy.
Netizens first succeeded in bringing down at least six government websites on Sept. 30 by using a crude distributed denial of service attack, or DDoS, to show their opposition.
On Oct. 2, the “Thailand F5 Cyber Army” issued their ultimatum calling for the junta to officially drop the project by Oct. 14 and threatening to launch attacks if their request was not accepted.
No government agency has issued a direct response today. Gen. Prayuth and Minister of Information and Communication Technology Uttama Savanayana both previously said the project was never initiated and thus was impossible to revoke by resolution.
On Oct. 8, Prayuth faulted the unnamed staff member responsible for typing his cabinet resolutions for misleading society. He said the cabinet meeting only aimed to discuss about how to protect internet from threats and told reporters to stop raising this issue.
An online petition opposing the policy has been signed by more than 150,000 people.
Translation of the demands made by the “Thailand F5 Cyber Army:
“1. Government must issue a Cabinet Resolution to resolve the other one that ordered establishment of the single gateway
"2. Political authorities responsible for this case must resign, and in case the budget was already paid, there must be legal prosecution.
"3. Cabinet Resolution must be issued to oblige (the government) not to infringe citizen rights and freedom in cyberspace (out of the justice system) unless there is a court order.
"4. The prime minister must declared to public that he will not use the Article 44 to excuse the officials from No. 2 and not prosecute people joining this activity in every case.”