This article was authored by Don Sambandaraksa, and was originally posted on telecomasia.net.
Thailand’s military government has ordered the creation of a great firewall of Thailand to control the flow of information on the Internet.
General Prayuth’s cabinet ordered the ICT and Justice Ministries and the National Police Department to set up a single internet gateway in order to control inappropriate websites and to control the flow of information into the country from overseas via the internet.
A subsequent cabinet resolution ordered the agencies to report back with any laws that would need to be enacted or amended prior to setting up the single gateway.
The order was quietly given by the Cabinet on 30 June and the follow-up order for the agencies to report back with any laws that needed amending was given by the cabinet on 4 September.
The cabinet resolution was just unearthed on social media by someone browsing the official government cabinet resolution repository. Prem Sichanugrist or @sikachu on Twitter said, “Yes. Thailand is about to have The Great Firewall just like China, except it will be s****ier and corrupted as hell”.
He also tweeted that politics aside, from a systems point of view, having a single gateway and a single point of failure is a bad idea.
Back in the old days, only CAT Telecom ran a commercial gateway alongside a handful of tiny academic connections. Deregulating this sector and creating competition is arguably the only success the Thai telecom regulator has had since it came into existence, speeding up internet access and enhancing reliability.
CAT has always acted more as a rent collector rather than a telco. It’s 2G era CDMA network was an unmitigated disaster and in the 3G era things are not that much better despite all the free spectrum and public money.
From an internet connectivity point of view, one sees Thailand at the center of the region, yet it seems like all the major cable systems skirt around Thailand, coming up through Malaysia then jumping into the sea before surfacing again in Vietnam.
Some say it was CAT’s fault as it tried to charge exorbitant fees, so much so that everyone decided to go submarine instead of overland.
The continued existence of the single gateway project makes a total mockery of everything new ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana said about turning Thailand into a data center hub for the region and building better connectivity. Would anyone in their right mind host a regional operation in Thailand under these circumstances?
A return to the gold old days of a CAT monopoly would be disastrous. The people of Thailand can kiss a fast internet goodbye purely from technical incompetence, not to mention all the monitoring, censoring and deep packet inspection the military want. Would VPN and encryption be outlawed? That would be a logical next step.
The cabinet resolution was for a way to censor and to control the flow of information and that cannot be done with strong encryption. The cabinet resolution said to report back on any laws that needed to be changed to make this possible. Banning encryption would be a logical law to pass to make the original cabinet resolution implementable.
Good bye privacy. It was nice to have known you.