Thailand’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology said the public misunderstood its plan to set up a single internet gateway and that the project is actually needed to “to serve basic economic needs.”
Minister Uttama Savanayana said Friday that the single gateway is not intended to violate personal privacy or block citizens from having access to public information, but to become a main connection point of internet traffic in the country to facilitate the digital economy.
“The government is not trying to control access to information like communist countries,” Mr Uttama said. “The planned single gateway is to serve basic economic needs, not for national security purposes.”
He added the organization will not force all nine gateways in Thailand to join the plan either and that it has not set a the time frame when the single gateway would happen.
“The government will not order any company to share its gateway facilities but will ask for voluntary access to the gateway,” Uttama told Bangkok post.
Uttama’s statement contradicts the official report from the cabinet meeting last week which said, “The single gateway will be a tool to control inappropriate websites and the inbound of information and news from overseas to Thailand.”
The concept sparked an outcry from the public last week as they feared the internet would be blocked by a possible Great Firewall of Thailand.
Thai online businesses and netizens are not buying into this project. One such prominent figure is Pawoot Pongvitayapanu – the president of the Thai E-Commerce Association and the founder of Rakuten.Tarad.com. He said the single gateway will hinder the fast-growing e-commerce sector due to connection bottlenecks. Moreover, the sales revenue in the e-commerce sector will be affected because customers outside of Thailand experience slower connection speed.
“We’re talking with other Internet-related associations about writing a joint letter to the government to oppose this idea and it is not true that the proposed single gateway would help service providers reduce cost,” said Pawoot.
On top of that, many say that the single gateway is too dangerous because the Internet will frequently go down, which will then lead to immense economic damage.
Morragot Kulatumyotin, managing director of Internet Thailand Public Company, said that the government is going to have a hard time to put this plan into action since the licenses by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission allow private sector companies to operate numerous gateways.
“Stability of connection is very important, so a single gateway is not practical in the digital age. If the government is worried about national security issues, it would be better to enforce the [computer crime] law,” said Morragot.
According to internet legal expert Paiboon Amonpinyokea, the plan is “old-school” and would limit people’s Internet freedom and access to knowledge, The Nation reported.
To voice out their angers, netizens set up a campaign called “Go against Thai govt to use a Single Internet Gateway” on Change.org.
The campaign currently has earned 73,000 signatures so far since being launched five days ago.
Photo: Asia Forest