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As part of their ongoing campaign against perceived threats to national security police in Thailand are planning to monitor Line app chats. Authorities have been increasingly monitoring websites and web boards as well as social media such as Facebook in recent years. Since the military coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 the country’s political situation has remained in a state of tension.
The Technology Crime Suppression Division has announced that it has asked for cooperation from Line Corp who are the provider of the popular Line mobile messaging app and have requested records of chat between smart phone users.
Police. Maj. Gen Pisit Pao-in, the division commander, said on Tuesday that there is a new trend emerging of people doing the wrong things on their smart phones via social media, the TCSD is asking Line to alert them and give them information if people are chatting about or making comments that post a threat to national security. He went on to say that Line, created by NHN Japan Corp, has already been contacted and are following up the request. However, in response to a request for comment by a local newspaper, The Nation, Line Corp. said it has not received any official request from the Thai police.
The move to monitor Line chats came about after the police opened an investigation into four people who were allegedly posting rumors on Facebook of a possible military coup two weeks ago. Police claimed the postings could violate the 2007 Computer Crime Act which addresses hacking, traditional online offenses, and banning material deemed harmful to national security. Violations of the act can be punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 baht, or $3,200. Authorities have also warned social media users not to “like” or “share” false information as they, too, may violate the laws.
The plans have sparked outcry from the countries residents who have criticized the plan as an attempt to restrict free speech online. The police have said they would only focus on suspicious activity and not pry into private conversations. “We’ll leave innocent Line app users alone,” Pol. Maj. Gen Pisit said
Law professor Jade Dhonavanik said the police unit risks violating people’s rights to privacy if it goes ahead with the plan, as the act does not have a clear framework as to what extent it gives authorities power when it comes to dealing with national security.
Since the Computer Crime Act in Thailand came into effect in 2007, and annual prosecutions have continued to rise. There were 325 cases at the end of 2011 60% of those related to the content and not the system. 100 cases were related to defamation and around 50 involved national security and lese majeste laws.
In 2012, a former stock broker was sentenced to four years in jail under the act for posting online that rumors about the king’s health caused a drop in the value of Thailand main index. He was later released on bail.