ICT minister vows to 'never curb rights'

ICT minister vows to 'never curb rights'

"We won't take legal action against these people. But if they do it again and a third party presses charges, we need to abide by the law," says Mr Uttama at a briefing on Thursday. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

The Information and Communication Technology Ministry has reiterated the official stand that there is no progress in the single gateway plan and that the government will "never restrict rights or interfere with social media use".

The single gateway was intended to protect Thai youth so they can browse the web and use IT technology appropriately and constructively, ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana said at a press conference on Thursday.

"The prime minister is worried about children and young people who use technologies and the internet without an appropriate framework or scope, and he has asked related agencies to come up with measures," he said.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong cited cost savings on IT infrastructure as the reason for the consolidation.

Thailand now has 10 international internet gateways, with total international bandwidth of 1,954 gigabits per second as of Sept 7, according to Nectec data

The ICT held a briefing on Thursday after an online protest against the plan by a group of internet users.

They campaigned for netizens to repeatedly refresh the home pages of government websites at the same time, starting with the ICT Ministry's.

The distributed denial of service attack made access to the web pages very slow or temporarily unavailable.

Besides the ICT Ministry, the targeted websites were those of CAT Telecom, TOT Plc, Defence Permanent Secretary Office, Royal Thai Armed Forces headquarters, Prime Minister's Office, Internal Security Operations Command and Government House.

Mr Uttama admitted the number of hits on the ICT Ministry's website shot up to 100,000 on Wednesday compared to 6,000 a day on average.

He said the online protest was a symbolic expression against the single gateway plan and was not a malevolent attack.

"In any case, it affected people seeking information on the websites who had nothing to do with the protest," he said.

The ICT Ministry is open to suggestions and has no policy to curb the rights and liberties that Thai internet users currently have, he added.

"We also have plans to expand broadband coverage so all sectors can access the internet and to upgrade the country's digital infrastructure as a tool for development.

"We urge all to think again about others who might want to use the service of websites," he said.

"We won't take legal action against these people. But if they do it again and a third party presses charges, we need to abide by the law," he said.

But police said late on Thursday they would press charges against the participants and the organisers of the campaign.

The Technology Crime Suppression Division is evaluating the damage after a distributed denial of service paralysed them, said Pol Lt Gen Prawut Tavornsiri, acting technological crime and forensics adviser, said on Thursday.

"They will be charged with violating Section 10 or Section 13 of the Computer Crime Act," he said.

Section 10 provides any person who illegally commits any act that causes the working of a third party's computer system to be suspended, delayed, hindered or disrupted to the extent that the computer system fails to operate normally shall be subject to imprisonment for no longer than five years or a fine of not more than 100,000 baht, or both.

According to Section 13, any person who sells or disseminates sets of instructions developed as a tool used in committing an offence under ... Section 10 ... shall be subject to imprisonment for not more than one year or a fine of not more than 20,000 baht, or both.

"It caused damage and obstructed state operations," he said.

An expert views the case as unprecedented and there is a possibility the court views it as an illegal act.

"A person using a special program to attack a website breaches the law. It depends on whether the court views accessing a website by people is considered illegitimate too," he added.

Authorities backpedalled from the original decision to proceed with the single gateway after a leaked document created an uproar among internet users. They have since claimed the project is just being studied and the cabinet has not decided yet whether to go ahead with it.

Also on Thursday, the ministry announced the graduation of another batch of "cyberscouts" who completed a course held by the ministry.

The cyberscout project recruits students and young volunteers to monitor online content that could be deemed potentially offensive to national security and the monarchy.

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