[Thailand] New cyber laws raise concerns

Thailand has passed the Cybersecurity Act, which grants broad powers to state cyber agencies, prompting concerns over potential abuse in its enforcement and breach of privacy.

On 28 February 2019, 133 members of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) unanimously voted for the passage of the bills, Khaosod English reported.

The Cybersecurity Act authorizes the National Cybersecurity Committee (NCSC) to interrogate individuals and search private property without court orders in cases of proven and presumed “cyber threats,” reported Reuters. It also establishes a Cybersecurity Regulating Committee that can access data and networks, and seize computers, devices, and equipment.

As reported by Khaosod English, a week before the new law was approved by the NLA, Appeals Court judge Sriamporn Salikup said the cybersecurity bill seemed to “prioritise government security over the freedoms and liberties of the people.” It lacked clear checks and balances, he also warned. The NLA said the new law mainly focuses on the country’s infrastructure, not online content, reported The Nation.

The Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) was also passed on the same day the Cybersecurity Law was enacted. It requires data processors to get explicit consent from consumer data owners before the latter’s data such as names and photos can be used for commercial and other purposes, reported the English-language Thai daily.

Members of civil society and internet and business groups have similarly voiced concerns over the PDPA. It will apply to companies (local or overseas) that “collect, use, or disclose personal data of subjects in Thailand,” said Reuters.

Jeff Paine of the Asia Internet Coalition, an association made up of leading internet and technology companies, released a statement saying: “We note that the National Cybersecurity Committee’s lack of industry, the private sector and civil society representation remains unaddressed. Thus we urge the government to allow for multi-stakeholder inputs so that the law can be implemented with transparency and checks and balances in place.”

Both laws are expected to come into effect in May 2019, according to Bangkok Post.

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