The Association of Thai Computer Industry (ATCI) has rejected the main articles of the draft of the Internet Law that was recently submitted to the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The association has pointed out that it would be more acceptable if the draft came out as a policy promoting Internet activities, rather than as a law as its proponents wanted it to be.
“We believe that there are more effective ways in which the Internet can be promoted without this law. Furthermore, the draft has many weak points. It gives power to the proposed Committee to implement the law. More importantly, the public feels negative towards this move,” said Manoo Ordeedolchest, the chairman of ATCI.
In an unsealed (open) letter, the association pointed out that the essence of the draft is contained in Article 10 which defines the authority and responsibility of the Internet Activity Promotion Committee. The article gives the body powers to set up regulations, issue orders, as well as set the terms and conditions within the scope of the Act, which implicitly extends to all aspects of the Internet.
“It gives overwhelming control, power and extension of such power to the committee. If it is not carefully exercised, it would undoubtedly defeat the purpose of the well-intended objective and stifle the growth of Thailand's Internet and its subsequent applications,” the ATCI said in its letter.
“That's why we can't rationally support the Act, we firmly believe that the Internet has been both technically and principally designed to be “free” and “open” to all users. A portion of the Internet in Thailand could neither logically be isolated nor insulated from its global basis,” the letter added.
The ATCI recommended that it would be better if Thailand worked alongside other countries in releasing an Internet Law. And that Thailand should not be the first country to implement the law.
“The draft should be delayed until some proven cases are witnessed. Meanwhile, the government can vigorously promote the Internet by means of strong and viable policy such as improvement, amendment and harmonization of existing laws to effect the policy,” Manoo said.
The ATCI said that, along with the policy and programs, critical success factors must be identified and seriously addressed such as making available low-cost and widespread interconnected and interoperable networks which can become a critical backbone for the Internet in Thailand.
The Thai government should promulgate a data security law and a privacy law and should continuously upgrade the intellectual property law. It should also facilitate access to research and development funds, especially from the government itself and from multinational companies, the association stated.
The association further noted that these factors can be more effectively achieved through sufficient funding and strong commitment from high-level government executives rather any wishful law.
A number of Internet service providers (ISPs), however, said they agreed with the current proposed Internet Law.
Rear Admiral Prasart Sripadong, managing director of ISP A-Net, commented that the perception of the law which expressed in the media was strongly defensive, emphasizing the censorship issue. In his opinion, the Internet law or the related laws are a must for Thailand as abuses over the Internet such as hacking, spreading computer viruses and spamming are widespread. Users must be protected from these kind of violations which might damage businesses, he said.
Prasart also mentioned that business people are hesitant to do business across the Internet because there is no legal protection if things were to go awry.
“Take the banks for example, they are slow to adapt to electronic commerce or Internet-related businesses as they are most concerned about security,” he said. “And the banks need to be sure that they can sue [over Internet related crimes] and that the law is enforced to protect their business,” Prasart noted.
Krisada Bunditnoparat, managing director of Dataline Thai, said she agrees with the proposed Internet law, but pointed out that it will take a long time before the draft goes to the cabinet. The process of amendment and revision in parliament will also take years, before such a law is enacted, she said.