Thailand admits using surveillance to spy on democracy activists

Less than a day after police denied using the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to track Thai democracy activists a government minister admitted Thailand does use surveillance to monitor individuals.

Successive Thai governments have been accused by Human rights groups of using broad definitions of national security as a pretext to prosecute or suppress the activities of their main rivals.

And on Monday, a joint investigation by Thai human rights group iLaw, southeast Asian Internet watchdog Digital Reach, and Toronto-based Citizen Lab revealed the Thai government had used Pegasus spyware on about 30 government critics between October 2020 and November 2021.

The report makes it known that Pegasus spyware was found on the phones of leading Thai protest organizers, including Arnon Nampa, Benja Apan, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, also known as Rung.

In parliament, late on Tuesday, Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, confessed the kingdom did use surveillance software to track individuals in cases involving national security or drugs.

Chaiwut did not name the controversial Israeli spyware Pegasus but admitted he was aware of spyware being used to, “Listen into or access a mobile phone to view the screen, monitor conversations, and messages.”

Astonishingly, the government minister acknowledged it would be unlawful to use such software but didn’t reveal which government agency does.

Thailand admits using surveillance to spy on democracy activists | News by Thaiger

“It is used on national security or drug matters. If you need to arrest a drug dealer you have to listen in to find where the drop would be.

“I understand that there was usage of this sort but it is very limited and only in special cases.”

In the past, the government has denied the accusation, as did the police.

A Thai police spokesperson yesterday said that while the police is bound by duty to prevent crimes and maintain peace and order and national security, always comply with the law and carry out all their work within the confines of what is legal, so they never used spyware to monitor protests, online activity, or funding sources.

No doubt this story will continue to run for a little while yet.


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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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