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Gen. Prayut defends controversial new cyber laws in Thailand

Thailand’s prime minister has defended plans to introduce tough new cyber laws in Thailand.

The new laws will give authorities the right to access emails, telephone records, computer data and even postal mail without court approval.

Critics have expressed concerns that the new laws would give the government unprecedented access to personal and private information, with little or no judicial oversight.

The draft of the new laws, which form part of the National Cyber Security Bill, has alarmed Internet rights groups in Thailand.

However, Gen. Prayuth Chan-O-Cha, who was appointed prime minister following a military coup in May 2014, has said that the new cyber laws in Thailand are necessary to help protect the nation and will only be used on occasions when the authorities suspect Thailand’s national security is at risk.

On Tuesday the prime minister told reporters in Bangkok: “We need to have national security otherwise everybody does what they want,” reports AFP.

“If there is a threat to national security — a violation, or someone committing a crime — we need to empower state officials to investigate,” he said.

Gen. Prayuth then added that “the authorities must have a reason to obtain the information. It would violate someone’s human rights to intrude into personal data (without reason).”

The government is yet to publicly publish the proposed draft of the bill, however, the Thai Netizen Network, an Internet freedom group, managed to obtain a copy and publish it online (English language version available here).

Speaking to AFP, Thitima Urapeepathanapong, a spokesperson for the Thai Netizen Network said: “what I am concerned about is Section 35, which says there is no need to ask a court for a warrant. It will just be up to the authorities to decide.”

“It will destroy our rights and freedoms — when we know someone can watch our communications and chats, we will not feel safe.”

Yesterday, the government was forced to backtrack on its original proposals for Section 35, by admitting that parts of the draft needed to be amended.

The plans to introduce new cyber laws in Thailand have also come under fire from members of the press who have describe the laws as a “a clear and present danger to media freedoms”.

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