THE 10 cyber-security bills should be halted and reconsidered after a democratically-elected Parliament has returned, said cyber activists who met yesterday to discuss the negative repercussions of the bills, which included, they argued, compromised Internet privacy.
Also present at the Bangkok symposium was an Army Lieutenant who arrived uninvited with three other soldiers in an armoured Humvee and "asked" to be allowed to defend the draft bills.
Opponents of the bills said the proposed laws would enable the authorities to set up committees that could access the personal data of people across all forms and formats without court orders, thus damaging the confidence of businesses while |jeopardising the privacy of individual Internet users.
Narongsak Niamsorn, a communications officer at iLaw, a non-governmental organisation promoting democratic legal reform, said the drafting of the bills was very important and required the participation of all sides.
But Narongsak argued this could not be achieved under the current political climate, with martial law imposed and a military regime in power and the National Legislative Assembly handpicked by the junta.
Thus, the process should be put on hold until democracy was restored.
"It would be more difficult to amend it afterward," said Narongsak, who added that iLaw had not yet lobbied members of the NLA as it was still considering whether to acknowledge them as legitimate.
An uphill struggle
Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator of the Thai Netizen Network, said his group had lobbied the Constitution Drafting Assembly and the National Reform Council over the issue but he acknowledged it was an uphill struggle given that Thailand was under martial law.
Arthit called the bills "alarming" and questioned what would happen if a centralised state organ could access all Internet information at will without seeking court approval.
Currently, he said, police had to forward a request to the chief of the Department of Special Investigation, who decided whether to seek court permission to access Internet information.
"Power without scrutiny or checks and balances is very risky.
It can even be said that it is unnecessary," he told a small group of mostly high school and university students at the symposium organised by the Rise Up Thai Students Network and held at Santi Prachatham Library on Charoen Nakhon Road.
Army Lieutenant Kittiphob Tiensiriwong, who sat next to Arthit, urged the 35-strong crowd to accept the bills, saying that the NLA had good intentions but acknowledging that the bills must have more positive than negative aspects.
When asked to explain, Kittiphob, who did not remove his footwear like the other participants, said there were times when speedy access to the Internet was needed.
He said the bills aimed "to control those who think unlike others - those who have their own mind and are not considering the thinking of the collective."
Netiwit Choltiphatphaisal, coordinator of the student network that hosted the event, told that The Nation it was at least fortunate the junta did not shut down the meeting although it should have informed the organisers well in advance that it wanted a representative to speak.
After the talk ended and the Army Lieutenant left, leaving behind two of the soldiers, the students screened 1984, the film adaptation of George Orwell's controversial novel.