In a move that seems pretty worrying for 2015, Thailand’s military government may be about to introduce a China-style Internet firewall to control the flow of online information, according to a Wednesday report by Telecom Asia.
The news appears to have come via Twitter user Prem Sichanugrist on Tuesday. Thailand is known to be a very active country on social media, with Facebook just opening its first office there this month.
“[On 30 June] General Prayuth’s cabinet ordered the ICT and justice ministries and the national police department to set up a single internet gateway,” Telecom Asia wrote.
“A subsequent cabinet resolution ordered the agencies to report back with any laws that would need to be enacted or amended prior to setting up the single gateway,” it added.
Yes. Thailand is about to have The Great Firewall just like China, except it will be shittier and corrupted as hell https://t.co/Lqj7jj4E7i
— Prem Sichanugrist (@sikachu) September 22, 2015
The move is unsurprisingly being compared to China’s infamous Internet firewall, dubbed “The Great Firewall” in a play on the name of one of the country’s most famous landmarks — The Great Wall of China.
The news also comes at an interesting time, as the issue of net neutrality in Asia and around the world has been making headlines. Just today, India’s government pulled a new proposal on the encryption of social media data after a very public outcry.
Meanwhile, Google is said to be mulling a re-entry into mainland China after a five-year absence, despite the persistance of government censorship.
Thailand has been known to block certain websites, including those containing pornography, but since the 2006 military coup, it has become more aggressive in its censorship practices, with new cybercrime laws and an updated Internal Security Act.
Clearly, this new development paints a worrying picture for the future of the Internet in Thailand under the military government.
As Telecom Asia pointed out, “The continued existence of the single gateway project makes a total mockery of everything new ICT minister Uttama Savanayana said about turning Thailand into a data center hub for the region, and building better connectivity.”
And perhaps it poses an even bigger question: “Would anyone in their right mind host a regional operation in Thailand under these circumstances?”
In 2014, Thailand was rated as “not free” by U.S.-based NGO Freedom House, coming in at number 52 out of 65 countries.
With this news, it looks like that ranking could drop substantially further.
But perhaps even more worrying, it looks like an increasing number of large tech companies are starting to turn a blind eye to government censorship in countries like China and Thailand as they opt to put business first.