Thai telecoms regulator weakened in new frequency act

25 Apr 2016

Thailand’s military cabinet has approved a new frequency act that puts the formerly independent regulator under the control of the new digital economy commission while the selection process now goes through the executive branch.

The new National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Act calls for a single seven-member board (down from two five-member boards and one chair, one for broadcasting and one for telecommunications).

Selection will be through a committee consisting of the president of the constitutional court, the president of the supreme court, the president of the administrative court, chairman of the national anti-corruption commission, the auditor-general, the chairman of the national human rights commission and the governor of the Bank of Thailand. The committee will select 14 individuals which are passed to new Digital Economy Ministry (previously the ICT Ministry) which will forward them to the senate for selection which will forward the final selection to the Prime Minister.

The new NBTC act stipulates that the NBTC will have to follow the policy of the Digital Economy Commission and abide by the government policy statement. The new DE Commission is chaired by the Prime Minister.

The DE Commission will have the final say if there is dispute whether the NBTC is complying with government policy or not.

Matters of satellite and orbital slots are no longer a matter for the NBTC.

Spectrum allocation for telecommunications will be by auction except for certain designated uses.

In an earlier draft it was understood that the DE Commission could allocate spectrum for good causes and only let the NBTC handle commercial spectrum.

Another key change is in the NBTC budget which must be efficient and economical and the NBTC must obey any orders given by the auditor-general.

In the transition period, the existing NBTC will continue until their term is over in September 2017 unless there are less than four NBTC board members remaining in which case the entire NBTC board will be considered expired.

Meanwhile the new computer misuse act was also approved and will be put to the military-appointed legislature later this week. Leaked drafts show the bill to be draconian with the Digital Economy Ministry having immense power.

The DE Ministry will have the power in censoring websites without the need for judicial review. It can arrest and fine hackers without any recourse for appeal or review in a court of law.

Elsewhere Deputy Junta leader and defence minister General Pravit Wongsuwan has ordered police to closely monitor social media and to report any political activities to the military’s cyber warfare division over the course of the next five years.

Junta leader and prime minister General Prayuth Chanocha last Friday announced a five year transitional period to democracy.

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