Thailand’s ICT Minister has scrambled to defend the single internet gateway project, saying that reducing redundancy in the number of operators in the sector would help ISPs and users through lower prices and this would strengthen Thailand’s status as the digital hub of the region.
ICT Minister Uttama Savanayaya told reporters that it was a misunderstanding that the project was about national security; rather he said it was purely an economic measure simply to reduce Internet access costs and ISPs could use the single gateway or not as they choose.
It would also free up ISPs from security costs as the government would take care of IT security on their behalf.
The ICT Minister clearly said the single gateway was just one project and had not even reached the cabinet stage yet.
Dr Uttama’s statements directly contradict any number of cabinet meeting minutes that are on public record.
Isriya Paireepairit of tech website blognone published cabinet meeting minutes showing that the single gateway project was approved by the cabinet on 14 July with the explicit aim of “censoring undesirable websites” and to “control the flow of information into the country from overseas via the internet”.
He noted that on 4 August, the cabinet ordered the ICT Ministry to expedite the implementation of the single gateway and have it up and running in a meaningful manner before the end of fiscal 2015 (30 September).
TelecomAsia had earlier reported that the cabinet ordered the ministries of Justice and ICT and the National Police Department to together implement the single gateway on 30 June. More recently on 4 September, the cabinet ordered the ministers to urgently identify any laws that would need to be amended to make the the project implementation possible.
Dr Uttama Savanayaya became ICT Minister in the current military government through a reshuffle of the entire economic team on 20 August so it is impossible he was not aware of the cabinet resolution expediting the single gateway project at the very least.
Sarinee Achavanuntakul from the Thai Netizen Network told TelecomAsia that the only reason the government would want to implement the single gateway was if the junta wanted total control over Thai people’s access to information.
She warned that the cost was huge be it in terms of technical implementation, social costs (loss of privacy) and the knock cost on the economy as a whole.
“The authorities should stop pretending this is good for the economy and people and explain what they do not want us to know and why,” she said.