Cyber army holds promise

Cyber army holds promise

The new military lineup that moved into formation on Oct 1 has quickly unveiled plans to reinforce Thailand's "cyber army". Such mentions of this opaque force in the past have usually been a warning of another tightening of Big Brother-like surveillance, accompanied by arrests. The cyber army, frequently touted for 15 years but never publicly revealed, supposedly exists to protect the country from a cyber war. Perhaps this time, the Royal Thai Armed Forces can be persuaded to step up their protection while also allowing citizens more freedom online.

The promise to increase the size and scope of this cyber army came from Gen Pornpipat Benyasri, the new chief of the defence forces (formerly known as the Supreme Commander). In practically his first action after he was officially promoted from his position as chief-of-staff of the armed forces, Gen Pornpipat called a meeting of 300 officers to outline his policies, with cyber security near the top. He wants a bigger force of better trained troops to "solve counter-terrorism problems within 30 minutes".

It must be stressed that the "cyber army" is not just a military project. The original plan was drawn up directly under the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin deceptively created the first Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) with the promise of promoting online freedom, open internet access and huge digital advances in education. None of that happened, and every prime minister after Thaksin has made it worse.

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