Thais gear up to fight Internet "coup d'etat"

As the customary chorus of grumbling about the Internet Society of New Zealand swells to a crescendo, it might be salutory to have a look at Thailand, where repressive new Internet control laws are being pushed through - by the head of the Thai chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-TH). Thai computing organisations, IT company executives and Internet users are united against the proposals and the US-based Internet Society has told ISOC-TH chairman Srisakdi Charmonman that the wording of the draft law was contrary to its principles. So the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has now taken over responsibility for the drafting process. And guess what? Srisakdi is chairman of that body too.

Thai computing organisations, IT company executives and Internet users are reportedly banding together to fight the repressive proposed new Internet control laws in the country as laid out in a draft of the Internet Promotion Act.

But their combined efforts have not been enough to dislodge the central figure in the controversy, chairman of the Thailand chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-TH), Srisakdi Charmonman, who helped prepare the draft law, according to a report in the Bangkok Post.

Srisakdi has consistently defended the wording of the law, while maintaining tight control over discussions of its content, according to the Post.

The paper quoted the head of the Association of Thai Computer Industry (ACTI) as saying that ACTI is against the draft of the Internet Promotion Act, recommending instead that Internet promotion should be addressed as a national policy rather than a law, and that the fourth revision of the draft law contained problems with both content and practice.

The draft law currently proposes tight restrictions on content and control over Internet service providers (ISPs) which Craig Emmott, director of support services at Internet Thailand, described in the newspaper as "nothing less than a blueprint for a coup d'etat of the local Internet business."

Following opposition from ISOC headquarters in the United States that the wording of the draft act was contrary to the principles of the society, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has reportedly now taken over responsibility for the drafting process. However, Srisakdi is also chairman of this organisation.

The final public hearing on the draft Internet Promotion Law was on Friday, and the Post reported that the public had been invited to attend by the chairman of the hearing -- none other than Srisakdi.

Recent amendments to the draft removed some restrictions, but the draft still mandates the establishment of a body that would have sweeping powers over the Internet -- and still contains an unprecedented proposal for this body to license commercial Internet content providers, the Post reported.

Srisakdi's commercial interests include an Internet company -- KSC Group -- which will have an official voice in granting licenses, the Bangkok Post said.

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