The new computer crime law has faced sharp criticism from human rights advocates, but the majority of those in online and other digital businesses welcome the legislation.
While freedom of expression and access to information on social and other digital media will be more strictly regulated under the new law, the protection of intellectual property rights such as copyrighted online content will improve to pave the way for a more sustainable digital economy.
The new rules empower the minister for digital economy and society to appoint a nine-person committee tasked with screening online content. With the court’s approval, the committee may remove content deemed inappropriate from websites and other online platforms.
Experts such as Thanachart Numnonda, president of the Thai ICT Industry Association, point out that the law is not entirely new since the first version was enacted in 2007.
Most of the amendments are merely updates of the previous law, but enforcement will be emphasised in order to reflect the importance of online and other digital activities to the Thai economy and society.
The Thai computer crime law is hardly exceptional; countries including the US, Singapore and China have similar laws to protect national security and other objectives.
In terms of foreign investment, the Thai law will reassure investors with stricter enforcement of copyright and related laws on digital platforms, while service providers will be required to keep logs for two years, a year longer than under the previous law.
China also has a notoriously strict cyberlaw, but this has not deterred foreign investors such as Amazon Web Services, a major provider of cloud computing services in China’s huge market for the growing trend of remote data centres.
As for Thailand, enforcement of the new computer law is crucial, so the choice of Pichet Durongkaveroj as the country’s first digital economy and society minister is appropriate given his expertise in the field.
He was previously the minister for information and communication technology and is a veteran of Thailand’s science and tech scene.
Pichet will be tasked with laying the foundations and infrastructure for the digital economy and society, following the groundwork undertaken by the current government.
Thailand 4.0, PromptPay and tech start-ups have become buzzwords which must now be followed by concrete action. For example, the Promptpay online payment platform, sponsored by the government, will play a crucial role in ushering in a new era of e-payment in Thailand.
PromptPay will launch in the first quarter of 2017 for recipients of government welfare and for free-of-charge transfer of funds, using mobile phone numbers as alternative bank accounts.
If successful, the platform will become crucial infrastructure for Thailand’s e-commerce and other digital activities, including those to be developed by the new generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs in start-ups.
Hence, an up-to-date legal framework is necessary to get Thailand ready for the up-and-coming rash of new technology.