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Thailand gets new cyber crime law

By Supichaya Rakbua

The chief immediate effect of the new bill will be to outlaw any attempt to get around government censors to access any of the tens of thousands of sites censored for moral or political purposes, or "to damage the country".

The government pushed the new law by saying it hopes the bill will provide an effective legal tool to fight cyber crime, including theft of data and chatroom contacts that lead to rape.

The National Legislative Assembly approved the Cyber Crime Bill, which gives officials power to crack down effectively on hacking and internet-related crimes through harsher punishments.

The bill sailed through its third reading on Wednesday by a vote of 119 to 1. It requires royal endorsement before it can be formally enacted into law.

The bill regards as a crime the intention to withhold internet protocol (IP) addresses and violators are subject to severe punishment, according to the NLA special committee assigned to scrutinise the law.

The IP is a unique address used to identify computer users while communicating with others on the network. However, the committee said, "ill-intentioned users" often hide or falsify their computer addresses so that they can easily carry out illegal acts and get away with them.

The committee believed tighter controls on IP addresses would help tackle the root cause of cyber problems.

Penalties apply to all illegal acts using the internet, including those carried out abroad and deemed to "damage the country both directly and indirectly".

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