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THURSDAY, October 06, 2022
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Digital Ministry slammed for ‘ambiguous’ ban on online contact with junta critics

Digital Ministry slammed for ‘ambiguous’ ban on online contact with junta critics

THURSDAY, April 13, 2017

CIVIL SOCIETY organisations have slammed a vague announcement by the Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry that advised netizens to refrain from following certain critics of the monarchy online, saying the announcement violated the new Constitution and international laws guaranteeing political rights and freedom of expression.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) issued a statement on its website saying that such limitations of people’s rights and freedoms were not feasible unless prescribed by law.
The controversial announcement warning people against following or making online contact with academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul, lecturer Pavin Chachavalpongpun and journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall did not properly cite legal codes, the organisation said. 
The document should, therefore, be considered as a public notification rather than a law or order that compels compliance, TLHR stated.
Despite the announcement’s vague citation of an unidentified court order and the Computer Crime Act, the TLHR stated that the announcement was not comprehensible because it lacked specifications regarding facts and incidents. In addition, the Computer Crime Act of BE 2550 (2007) did not contain clauses that allowed courts to forbid people from following or contacting certain people online, the group said.
The group concluded that the controversial announcement only created confusion and made the public fearful in exercising their rights and liberties to expression and access to information. Such actions are an infringement of the Constitution as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the statement read.
The Thai Netizen Network, a non-governmental organisation working to promote digital rights, also made similar observations about the ambiguous citation of a court order and the computer law, agreeing that the announcement was aimed at informing the public, rather than setting a legally enforceable standard.
Amnesty International also slammed the ministry announcement yesterday, saying authorities had hit new a new low in curbing free speech.
“The move doesn’t reveal strength, but a weakness and fear of criticism. In its determination to silence all dissent, the Thai authorities are resorting to extreme measures that brazenly flout international human rights law,” Amnesty deputy director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Josef Benedict, said yesterday.
“The Thai authorities have plunged to new depths in restricting people’s freedom of expression,” he said, adding “they want to cut people off from each other altogether”.
He also pointed to concerns expressed by the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee recently regarding Thailand. “Rather than drawing lessons from the criticism, they are pressing ahead with their repressive tactics,” he said.
The ministry’s caretaker permanent secretary, Somsak Khaosuwan, who signed the announcement admitted yesterday that the document was aimed at sending a message to people, telling them about the “proper” use of the Internet and making clear what sources of information should or should not be shared online.
He said the document was intended also to advise Internet users to use discretion in reading or sharing information. The ministry statement came after a court order that banned any inappropriate dissemination of information online, he added.
Asked how the ministry would deal with a possibly large number of people following or making contact with people named persona non grata, the official said it was the responsibility of the Royal Thai Police.