Thailand’s Prime Minister and head of the ruling Junta General Prayut has used Article 44 of the interim constitution, commonly known as the absolute power clause, granting total indemnity for the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission when engaging in censorship for national security.
Article 44 order 97/2557 grants the NBTC commissioners, NBTC secretary-general, NBTC staff and anyone appointed by the NBTC total indemnity from any criminal, civil or disciplinary action resulting from their actions when acting in good faith against those who are engaged in sedition, are a threat to national security, are disturbing the peace or those who are acting against the good morals of the country. However, an affected third party may still seek monetary compensation through the courts.
The order came days after the NBTC lost a court case when it tried to silence a TV station that was loyal to the former regime of Thaksin Shinawatra.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s state enterprise policy commission has agreed with the plans put forth by the ICT Ministry and ordered the two state telcos - CAT Telecom and TOT Corporation - to merge their data operations and transfer staff to three new companies within a year.
Transmission and fiber networks will be under the National Broadband Network Company, Internet gateway and submarine networks will be merged under the Neutral Gateway Company and data centers will be merged under the IDC Company.
This has not gone down well with the unions.
CAT Union chairman Thaworn Poomtieng held a rally at CAT’s headquarters yesterday and issued a statement that the plan was drawn up only by the ICT Ministry and Deloitte without any input from CAT management and condemned the order to split up the state telco as dictatorial.
Thaworn questioned whether the plan was actually to strengthen the state enterprise or if it was simply to sell it off.
CAT acting President Surapan Meknavin said that he has not yet received any details of the plan from the State Enterprise Policy Commission and that in the past he has only had some high-level talks about reorganisation without going into any detail.
The move has only added to a groundswell amongst Thailand’s netizens with many fearing the merged Neutral Gateway is simply the first step towards the rebranding of the much hated Single Gateway mass-surveillance project.
ICT Ministry spokesperson Chatchai Khunpitiluck issued a statement that anyone still talking about the Single Gateway probably either had some misunderstandings or that they were purposefully distorting the issue in order to damage the country.
Earlier Prime Minister and junta leader General Prayut Chanocha dismissed the numerous Prime Ministerial orders published on the Cabinet website referring to the Single Gateway mass surveillance project as a clerical error by someone who simply got his notes wrong.