How the new Thai Computer Crime bill
is undermining Freedom of Expression

17 November 2016

By: Robin Vanholme, volunteer
Translated by: Amnesty International Thailand  




What's the common point between “I bought an ice cream for 1 million $” “I think Earth is flat” and “I love going to vacation to Chernobyl” ? A bad taste of humor you could say. The answer here is that those three statements are false. What would happen you think if you wrote those false statements on Facebook or Twitter? Normally, the answer would be nothing. But if you are in Thailand, as soon the new amendment to the Computer Crime Act would become effective and the authorities find your statement false and dangerous to somebody; you could technically risk a 5-year prison sentence and a 100,000 baht fine.


Computer Crime Act

The issue here is a purposed amendment to the existing 2007 Computer Crime Act. This new amendment should reassure that Thai authorities can prevent and punish cybercrimes such as forgery, hacking, data theft, etc. At first, it sounds good and many countries already have laws for that, so what's the problem? The problem is that Thailand’s Computer Crime Act is in fact a juridical Trojan Horse to control stronger what Thai population write and share online.
Section 14 of the Bill says that any “false” data put in a computer system in a manner that is likely to cause damage to a third party, the public or national security becomes illegal and would be punished by law. The cases in which is illegal and which is not are quite vague and imprecise, which means that any false information you would write online could potentially make you liable for persecution.
Moreover, Section 20 states that “Computer data which is not an offense against any law, but is deemed to be a breach to the public order or moral high ground” are forbidden too. Making everything even vaguer. Who decides what's true information and false information? Who decides what's appropriate and what's inappropriate? The answer is a commission under the direct control of the Minister of Digital for Economy and Society - in other words, it’s the government.


The Photoshop Law

So far we talked about words, but what about pictures ? According to Section 16(1) and Section 16(2), making, sharing or just possessing edited, modified or cut pictures which would damage a third party or the general public becomes illegal as well. Thus, if you were thinking about making a meme or a caricature of any Thai government official, think twice; because if you do, you would be subject to up to three years in prison and a 200,000 baht fine. And for your information, with Section 16(2) and 14, you could just possess the picture on your own computer (or any false information), so not uploading them on the Internet, wouldn't mean you don't break the law.


Who are the most affected?

Everyone in Thailand who use computer has been and would be affected by law but the most affected would be the journalists, thinkers or any dissent individual. Because yes, this is where the problem is: perhaps the government won't mind if you say that according to you Earth is flat, but if you begin to tell things like criticizing Thai government, do you think the government with a absolute power will like that? They are able to choose what is true and false, what can “damage” the public peace or not.
Of course, evidence would be needed to try someone in court so according to Section 18, the situation is not less obscure. In fact, it would enable authorities to decode your personal device or instruct you to deliver your device to them which could privacy in even more danger.


Freedom of expression at risk

This amendment would be undermining not only the right to privacy and freedom of expression on the Internet, and perhaps wouldn't help much against real online problems like hacking and forgery. From 2007-2011, under the current Computer Crime Act, only 22% of the charges are related to real cybercrimes while 78% related to defamation; if they continue this pattern, hackers or cybercriminals in Thailand would rather be at peace because the main target has been and will be the people who only exercise their rights.


Hereby you can find a link to the Thailand’s Cybercrime Act amendment in Thai and translated in English by Amnesty International Thailand : and a link to the online petition again the new amendment: