Thai military's plan for 'Great Firewall' risks Internet competition

Thu Oct 8, 2015 3:56am EDT
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By Amy Sawitta Lefevre

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A proposal by Thailand's junta for a single Internet gateway to allow authorities to monitor content would destroy competition and was reminiscent of the most authoritarian measures to stifle free speech, a former information minister said on Thursday.

The plan to create a single gateway for all Internet traffic was approved by the military government in August but details remain unclear.

Free-speech activists say the gateway, referred to as a China-style "Great Firewall", is the latest effort by the junta to smother dissent and monitor detractors.

The plan has also triggered concern that Internet speeds would plummet, which would almost certainly hurt online business and anger Internet users.

"Once it becomes a single gateway there will be a problem with traffic speeds," said Anudith Nakornthap, a former information minister under the government of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

"The junta wants to control various websites. This is similar to the control mechanisms of non-democratic countries such as China and North Korea."

The junta has ruled Thailand since overthrowing Yingluck's government in May 2014.

Thai politics has been agitated for a decade by a confrontation between the Shinawatras, in particular Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist premier who was himself ousted in a 2006 coup, and the royalist-military establishment, which sees him as a threat.   Continued...

A woman surfs the web at an Internet cafe  in Bangkok September 29, 2010. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang