Analysis of Computer Crime Act of Thailand [Sinfah Tunsarawuth and Toby Mendel, 2010]

2010.07.21 09:02

Analysis of Computer Crime Act of Thailand
By Sinfah Tunsarawuth and Toby Mendel

published May 2010

  • Sinfah Tunsarawuth, the lead author of this report, is an independent media lawyer based in Bangkok, Thailand. He can be contacted at
  • Toby Mendel, who provided international materials for and edited the report, is the Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, a Canadian-based international human rights NGO focusing on foundational rights for democracy. He can be reached at

1 Preamble

1.1 The Computer-Related Offences Commission Act, better known as the Computer Crime Act, has been enforced in Thailand for less than three years, and yet it has already created a great deal of controversy and concern. The Thai government has applied the law to shut down or block thousands of websites and to prosecute a number of individuals. It is thus a piece of legislation that has had a significant and negative impact on freedom of expression on the Internet since it came into force in July 2007.

1.2 The law came into force at a time when the Internet had already established itself as a popular means of communication, especially for urban, educated Thai people. The Internet allows for a freer flow of information due to the fact that it is more difficult for the government to control. It also offers alternative sources of news from the rather conservative Thai traditional mass media. The Internet also provides a public forum for ordinary citizens, who do not have easy access to the established media, to express their views and opinions.

1.3 By the end of 2008, there were 13.4 million Internet users in Thailand, almost
five times more than the number of users in 2000, according to the 2008 annual report of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the country’s telecommunications industry regulator. By the end of the first quarter of 2009, NTC had granted Internet service provider licenses to 113 operators in the country.

1.4 In its report for the first quarter of 2009, NTC noted that the Internet market in Thailand had been expanding dramatically, with a retail market of 6.64 billion baht (approximately US$199.9 million) in 2008, up 44% from a year earlier. The agency predicted at that time that the value would increase by another 28% to 8.51 billion baht (approximately US$256.3 million) in 2009. The report also noted that almost all urban users have now migrated from older dial-up systems to high-speed Internet, although many users in rural areas still use the much slower dial-up access.

1.5 The State-owned TOT Public Company Limited, formerly the Telephone Organization of Thailand, maintained the largest market share in terms of providing high-speed Internet services, with 41.2% of the market share at the end of the first quarter of 2009, followed by two privately-owned companies, True Corporation Public Company Limited, at 37.6%, and TT&T Public Company Limited, 20.8%. All the three companies also operate fixed-line telephone networks.

1.6 The dramatic rise in Internet use in Thailand, particularly in urban areas, has been accompanied by a significant growth in the number of websites, both news- and non-news-oriented, and various web boards and blogs. Many educated, middle-class Thais now use these web boards and blogs to express and share their views on social, economic and political issues, as these new channels allow them to publish their opinions by themselves, without having to be screened or censored. This is particularly popular due to the fact that Thai mainstream media have recently been seen as leaning towards the royalist camp in the current political polarisation around the issue of monarchy. Internet publication also travels immediately, and irrespective of borders, to an unlimited number of readers. Users can also remain anonymous. Social networking sites such as Hi5, Facebook, YouTube and twitter have also become increasingly popular among the young urban population.

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