Wissanu hints at revisions to cyber bills
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has admitted that some of the government's digital- and computer-related bills may need revising following complaints about privacy and rights violations.
Mr Wissanu made the admission yesterday after a meeting at Government House with representatives from media organisations, electronic media operators, internet service providers, online media producers, and web administrators.
Mr Wissanu said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wanted to listen to all those who will be affected by the digital media-related bills. The government is ready to make amendments now concerns have been raised, he said.
On Jan 7, the cabinet approved a package of eight digital and computer-related bills aimed at facilitating the government's digital economy policy, in addition to two others which received preliminary approval in December.
They include bills to regulate and promote electronic transactions, cyber security, the digital economy, and cyber privacy protection.
The Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) under the Information and Communication Technology Ministry was responsible for drawing up the 10 bills as part of the government's digital economy policy.
Surangkana Wayuparb, chief executive of the ETDA, had admitted earlier that the agency had to rush drafts on all 10 bills so they can be pushed through before the next general election.
The cyber security bill, in particular, has sparked an outcry among experts and privacy activists who have urged its revision, saying it opens the door to abuse of power by the state.
Section 35 would allow the national cyber security committee, which would be established under the bill, to access people's personal information through email, telegraph, fax and electronic devices in the name of national security.
Critics said the section does not state whether authorities would require court approval or not, raising fears it would lead to human rights and privacy violations as well as turn away foreign investment, especially by global internet firms wanting to invest in data servers and web servers in Thailand.
Mr Wissanu yesterday said some of the 10 bills cover measures to improve electronic systems at ministries and agencies, and they could be easily enacted.
However, provisions in some bills such as the cyber security bill and the one on cyber privacy are complicated and could have widespread repercussions, so they require careful consideration before being passed into law, Mr Wissanu said.
Currently, all 10 bills are being scrutinised by the Council of State before being sent back to the cabinet again.
After being passed by cabinet for a second time, the bills will be forwarded to the National Legislative Assembly for approval.
Mr Wissanu said the Council of State will be asked to gather input from those who stand to be affected by the bills. The government will ask an NLA panel responsible for vetting the 10 bills to have representation from media professionals and service providers, he added.
Chavarong Limpattamapanee, adviser to the Online News Providers Association, warned against state officials being given excessive power under the cyber security bill. The bill would impede the economy rather than promote it, he said.