The growing use of the Internet for criminal purposes which pose a threat to Thailand's national security and social development issues has driven the government to implement new initiatives to overcome these challenges and reconsider computer-crime-related legislation.
From left to right: Justice Minister Peerapan Sareerathawipak, Information Technology and Communication Minister Chuti Krairiksh and Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat join hands after signing the memorandum of understanding to protect the monarchy and citizens from illegal activities online.
Attempting to protect the royal institution, society and citizens from the misuse of the Internet and online crime has led three ministers to cooperate in an effort to fill the gap in official resources and enforce measures more effectively, according to Chuti Krairiksh, the Information Technology and Communication minister.
The ICT Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the Culture Ministry and the Justice Ministry to prevent the illegal use of online media and combat its impact on national security.
Justice Minister Peerapan Sareerathawipak said that there are networks that use the Internet as a tool for publishing and distributing insulting and inaccurate content about the royal institution, causing misunderstanding and threatening Thailand's national security.
"This issue is not like lese-majesty laws that seek to ban normal criticism or comments. We found networks of people who established companies but employ only one staff member who does nothing but post negative content on various websites. This issue adversely affects Thailand's internal affairs because there would be no Thailand if the nation didn't have a king, since we established our kingdom," Peerapan explained.
Chuti added that the ICT Ministry also plans to teach correct knowledge about the monarchy to young people at ICT community centres in rural areas throughout the country so that when they find incorrect comments about the monarchy these "cyber scouts" can post comments to clarify the matter for web audiences.
Apart from this issue, fraudulent use of online channels such as selling drugs and luring victims for money transfers also come under the authority of the Justice Ministry.
Moreover, there are many cases of criminals who have stolen antiques from temples and museums who use the Internet as a marketplace to sell such items to antique collectors. This also comes under the responsibility of the Culture Ministry in addition to online human trafficking, online game addiction among the young generation and Internet gambling.
These various crimes and social and economic issues involve a variety of related law agencies and authorities. Integration and collaboration will help to empower all three ministries and reduce loopholes in the law.
At this stage, the Justice Ministry will allocate 50 computer experts from its agency to act as officers under the Computer-related Crime Act. This will help to combine and mobilise the government's human resources between the agencies without incurring additional costs.
Juti added that besides supporting staff, the ministry also needs co-operation to protect its national information security infrastructure in order to prevent hacking of government websites and theft of data.
Aree Jiworarax, Director of the Bureau of Information Technology Regulation under the Information and Communication Technology Ministry, said a cabinet resolution allowed the ICT Ministry to increase its staff from 30 to 70 and renamed itself the Office of Prevention and Combat Information Technology Crime to clearly define roles and responsibilities.
However, one of the big challenges concerns the use of the existing legal framework, especially the Computer-related Crime Act because the law may not cover crimes that use mobile devices and in some obvious cases in editing pictures of the royal family that violate the law. Under such circumstances, authorities should be allowed to shut the web immediately without court approval.
Moreover, the office needs to invest in advanced tools for IP tracking and intercept content to trace back and determine the original IP in order to locate the illegal activities faster because cybercriminals lure the officers with fake IP addresses and re-route from multiple complexes in various countries.