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Don Sambandaraksa

Thai cops seek to listen in on Line IM

With the dust still yet to settle from a threat to arrest anyone liking stories damaging to national security, Thailand’s e-cops have gone on the rampage again, asking to listen in on Line instant messaging and threatening western social media platforms with retaliation for their lack of cooperation.

Police major-general Pisit Pao-In, commander of the technology crime suppression division, will send a taskforce to Japan to ask Naver for access to their popular line IM app for national security reasons focusing on certain users.

Pisit deflected criticism saying that since the operation was happening outside of Thai jurisdiction, he could not be blamed for anything.

He also first criticised then threatened the western social media sites by saying that they were happy to reap the benefits of Thai users but refused to cooperate with investigations. He said that he would get them if they put a foot wrong.

Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg might want to cancel any trips to Thailand pencilled into his diary until sanity returns to the country.

The way I see it there are two possible reasons for these outbursts.

The reason cited is definitely a red herring. If he wants to eavesdrop on someone for real, the last thing he would do is to tell the press that he was going to do it, thereby scaring away the fish. The only thing to be gained from this trip is some of his hand-picked subordinates having a nice shopping spree in Akihabara (or more likely Shibuya) while they are there on their mission.

Perhaps it could be the actions of a heavy handed big-brother police-state with officials emboldened by the current government which is led by a former policeman. No, I did not get that last word wrong.

But more likely it is a calculated move to stir up anger with these infringements on freedom of expression. This would lead on nicely to repealing the ultimate taboo in Thai society that many in the ruling inner circle have fought for since the communist era of the seventies.

So Naver is the scapegoat, the red herring, the sacrificial lamb or call it what you will, caught up in this game of chess between the old elite dinosaurs and new elite capitalists fighting over the hearts and minds of the people of Thailand.

Never mind that this Japanese company has over 200 million users and over 10 million in Thailand, foreigners are easy targets.

Unless Naver takes a hard stance and rebuts the Thai taskforce knocking on their door in the next few days, many will lose confidence in them and gossip will simply move underground to other, less conspicuous channels and to the darknet of Tor and Freenet.