Computer Crimes Act amendment 'still too punitive'

Computer Crimes Act amendment 'still too punitive'

The mother of Resistant Citizen group co-leader Sirawith 'Ja New' Seritiwat (left) faces years in prison after authorities claimed she made a one-word internet post. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
The mother of Resistant Citizen group co-leader Sirawith 'Ja New' Seritiwat (left) faces years in prison after authorities claimed she made a one-word internet post. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

The recent draft amendment of the Computer Crime Act (CCA) fails to prevent wrongful interpretations and applications of the law, critics said Wednesday.

The main problem with the existing CCA was that its definition of "offences" under Section 14 was too broad, which could lead to abuse, argued human rights activist Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, saying the latest draft made public on Sept 30 fails to improve matters.

Rights advocates have long decried the use of the CCA as an additional charge against individuals already facing criminal defamation charges. In the past decade, the CCA has proven a powerful tool to silence human rights defenders reporting alleged abuse or malfeasance, and activists who exercised their right to free speech. "This problem has not been solved in the latest draft," she said, despite repeated calls from rights organisations such as Amnesty International and the Thai Netizen Network to address this point.

Ms Pornpen herself faces libel and computer crime charges, along with Anchana Heemmina and Somchai Homla-or, for publishing a report on torture in the deep South. According to Ms Pornpen, authorities intend to finalise the draft amendment by the end of this month.

Kanathip Thongraweewong, a data privacy and social media laws specialist, agreed Section 14 of the existing CCA is used immoderately. Most people have forgotten its original purpose -- to suppress computer fraud -- and are using it in criminal defamation lawsuits, he said. Furthermore, the draft amendment could violate internet users' right to privacy, critics argued.

Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator of the Thai Netizen Network, said Section 18 of the new draft had been amended, widening authorities' scope and granting them more power to search and intercept data and communications while investigating alleged offences. Under the CCA's current version, authorities are only allowed to do so when probing suspected violations of the CCA itself. However, the latest draft grants permission to conduct such searches in all cases, he said.

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