Thai government warns web activists

Bangkok, Oct 2 (IANS) The Thai government has threatened to take legal action against web activists who attacked state-owned websites in a bid to develop a single internet gateway to expand control over online media, the media reported on Friday.

According to sources, the single gateway will be implemented to control access to websites deemed inappropriate and monitor the influx of information from abroad. The plan is designed to target websites with domains that are registered abroad, which the Thai government cannot order closed down.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd on Thursday said the attacks — which disrupted access to digital information and may have damaged government data — violated several sections of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which carries a maximum fine of 300,000 baht ($8198) and/or 15 years in jail, the Bangkok Post reported.

The activists on Wednesday night and Thursday repeatedly refreshed the home pages of government websites simultaneously, a tactic known as a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), to overload servers and make the web pages slow or temporarily unavailable.

Besides the information and communication technology ministry website, other targeted sites included those of CAT Telecom, the defence permanent secretary’s office, the Royal Thai Armed Forces headquarters, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Internal Security Operations Command and Government House.

The DDoS is an electronic civil disobedience technique commonly used by “hacktivists” for political purposes, Arthit Suriyawongkul, of the internet freedom activist group Thai Netizens Network said.

Such campaigns are non-violent forms of protest, he said, although they are deemed by authorities as criminal acts.

Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, president of the Thai e-commerce Association, has opposed the single gateway because it will slow the internet and decrease e-business transactions. The association, along with other organisations, are drafting a letter to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to ask the government to revise its plans.

Thai coalition Pheu Thai Party has also voiced its opposition to the single gateway, saying it would do more harm than good.

“A single gateway handling a lot of data might cause a nationwide internet collapse if any technical problem arises,” a party spokesman said.

It will have a huge impact on business and cause investors to lose confidence in the country’s internet services, he said.

“Thailand will have no chance of becoming the centre of ASEAN’s digital economy,” the spokesman added.

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