Thai Netizen Network

Internet Rights are Human Rights: Reflections from Thailand

Reflections to the side-event, “Internet Rights are Human Rights,” co-hosted by Association for Progressive Communications and Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Human Rights Council’s 17th session. Friday June 3rd, 13:00-15:00, room XXV, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

1. Surveillance is now commissioned to citizens. Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has agreed with Ministry of Education for “Cyber-scouts” development project. Kids will be trained to scout around Internet for websites with lese-majeste or other deemed illegal contents, and report to the 24-hours hotline. The project started since mid-2010. On June 3, 2011, the Ministries announced the goal to have 1,000,000 cyber-scouts by the end of 2011.

2. Some of these citizen spies were and will be trained in foreign-funded facilities. Training occurs either in secondary schools or in Community Learning Centers/Community ICT Centers. Many of these centers are funded by aids from foreign governments and international NGOs, through ‘continuing education,’ ‘media literacy,’ ‘ICT capacity building,’ and ‘ICT for development’ grants.

3. Laws that limit freedom of expression also limit freedom of association. Recorded cases in Thailand show that Computer-related Crimes Act and Section 112 of Criminal Code (lese-majeste law) have been systematically used by private sectors and interest groups in their attempts to stop legal reform campaigns and destroy trade unions. (See Case No.12 (Preeyanan Lorsermvattana) and No.15 (Songkram Chimcherd) in “Thailand: Cybercrime Acts vs. the Right to Freedom of Expression” report)

4. Call to all relevant Special Rapporteurs and related rights organizations. For example, International labour unions and Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association should recognized the aforementioned growing trend of violations to union workers, and take actions to protect their civil rights and their legitimate movements.

5. No accountability. As actions in (1) and (3) are done by non-state actors. The State may legally not have to accountable for allegations. Official Information Act (freedom of information) will also not cover the case, bring less transparency.

6. Good law doesn’t mean good human rights. While Computer-related Crimes Act has sections on Internet traffic log as electronic evidences. These evidences are in practical got neglected by the Court, resulting negative effects to the defendant. (See Case No.5, Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul)

7. Decriminalization of both the citizen-built infrastructure and the expression. To guarantee space for free expression, in the time where Internet and mobile networks shutdown is becoming common practice by governments, citizens should be allowed to run their own communication infrastructures, such as low-powered radio and community cellular network. This decriminalization rationale goes along the same line as two-aspects of access: 1) to infrastructure and 2) to content — as recommended by Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression (in A/HRC/17/27 report to the General Assembly).