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Govt denies digital surveillance as report alleges ‘spying’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Govt denies digital surveillance as report alleges ‘spying’ | The Thaiger

BANGKOK: The government dismissed allegations yesterday that it had violated people’s privacy by conducting surveillance of telephone and Internet communications.

Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the government was too busy and did not have time to spy on people.

He was responding to a report by the London-based organization ‘Privacy International (PI)’ regarding surveillance in Thailand.

The organization, which claims to be committed to fighting for privacy rights worldwide, yesterday published on its website a report titled “Who’s That Knocking at My Door?: Understanding Surveillance in Thailand“.

According to the report, online surveillance in Thailand is carried out using two major approaches. The first is via informal relationships between the state and telecommunications companies.

Under what the authors described as a ‘revolving door’ relationship, Internet censorship and online surveillance were achieved simply by the state asking for cooperation from Internet service providers (ISPs), which was met with compliance.

Gen Sansern told The Nation in a telephone interview yesterday that he had not seen the report and probably would not bother.

“Think about it. The population is 70 million and some carry as many as three smartphones. How could anyone possibly be able to keep track of them when the work at hand is already overwhelming?” he said.

The PI report cited an example, claiming that Facebook was blocked for half an hour less than a week after the 2014 coup. Social networking websites such as Facebook have been the main tools that activists have used to campaign, disseminate messages and invite people to join the anti-junta resistance, the report concluded.

A high-ranking official at the time admitted that the state had blocked Facebook because people had used it to call for protesters to move against the Army. But as the shutdown was slammed by millions of users and other officials said it had been caused by a technical glitch, the official backtracked and blamed a ‘bad gateway’ for the temporary lapse.

A service provider then revealed that the company had been contacted by the Army and been told to disable Facebook, while allegedly being threatened with strict scrutiny and possibly being put at a disadvantage in an important bandwidth auction, according to the report.

The report argued that the Facebook lapse was an example of how ISPs had helped the government to carry out online surveillance and censorship. The compliance could be a result of either a close relationship between the state and the companies or intimidation by the state, the report said.

The report cited export licenses released by the Swiss government while accusing the Thai government of having purchased nine items from Switzerland under the category of ‘mobile telecommunications interception or jamming equipment, and monitoring equipment’ and the subcategory ‘interception equipment designed for the extraction of voice or data, transmitted over the air interface’ in 2013.

In 2015, the report said, the government purchased six similar items from the UK, adding that the equipment was far from harmless and could damage the privacy rights for many more people.

Activities that restricted the right to privacy could only be justified when prescribed by law, were necessary to achieve a legitimate aim and were proportionate to the aim pursued, the report said. It was unclear whether the legal framework in Thailand specifically regulated the use of IMSI catchers, and whether such technologies were vulnerable to abuse, the report said.

— The Nation

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Crime

Gunman kills mayoral candidate, injures 4 other municipal candidates at funeral

Caitlin Ashworth

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Gunman kills mayoral candidate, injures 4 other municipal candidates at funeral | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook/ ยงข่าวร้อน

A gunman shot and killed a woman running for mayor and wounded 4 others at a funeral in Ratchaburi, a province west of Bangkok near the Myanmar border. Police say they suspect the shooting was politically motivated. Out of the 4 people injured, 3 were running in the March 28 municipal election while another was the kamnan, a government official of a tambon, which is a sub district.

The gunman is still at large, but police say they suspect the shooter is Wanchart Niamraksa, a member of the Ratchaburi provincial administration organisation.

The gunman opened fire just as the kamnan of tambon Don Sai, Yingpan Kanket, was lighting candles and incense sticks under a Buddha image to start the ceremony, witnesses say. Shots were fired from behind the main Buddha image at the temple’s open prayer hall, witnesses say.

Bullets hit 5 people, including Yingpan who is in critical condition. Varaporn Niamraksa, who was running for mayor of the municipality, was shot and died at the hospital. Nakhon Wanpen, Somthawil Srirat and Monthien Jaitham, who are all running for the municipal council of tambon Don Sai, were shot.

Police found 2 spent .22 cartridges and a 11mm spent shell at the scene. The suspect faces charges of murder, attempted murder, carrying firearms and ammunition without permission and carrying them in public without a proper reason.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand | Bangkok Post

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Phuket

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2 | The Thaiger

In today’s Thailand News Today…. The island of Phuket has a firm plan to get its residents vaccinated leading up to an October opening for tourists, the Thai PM backs up his police over last Sunday’s protest violence and Thai Airway’s employee union criticises the changes to employee contracts.

But the plan must be approved by the national government by April, if the province wants to open tourism by October 1. Phuket has a resident population of around 300- 400,000 people.

Before you go rushing off to book your plane tickets we’d stress that this is another in a long list of proposals that have not come to fruition and we’d urge patience until the Government approves the plans.

Meanwhile the island has taken delivery of 4,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccinations started yesterday, with priority given to 1,500 healthcare workers and 500 “at-risk” officials exposed to Covid-19 patients.

On a broader note… Thailand’s Tourism Minister says he has asked the Public Health Ministry to approve a vaccine passport scheme aimed at reviving Thailand’s devastated tourism sector. According to the Minister, the government is looking to the World Health Organisation to issue a statement on vaccine passports before it makes a final decision on the matter.

The Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended police action against protesters taking part in Sunday’s anti-government rally in Bangkok. Officers from the Metropolitan Police Bureau used tear gas, a water cannon and rubber bullets in an effort to drive protesters back from the PM’s residence. The PM insists the actions were in line with international standards. He says that police did not violate the protesters’ rights.

Thai researchers are claiming that horseshoe bats are not responsible for transmitting the Covid virus to humans. A researcher with the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases-Health Science Centre, says that even though the bats have tested positive for a coronavirus, it is not the strain that is transmissible to humans, and it’s certainly not the virus that causes Covid-19.

As Thai Airways tries to sell new contracts and conditions to its remaining workforce, the labour union of the national carrier is challenging changes to the employment contracts, where Thai Airways employees are being asked to agree to changes as part of the bigger financial rehabilitation program.

But a union representative says the new contracts are unfair because it includes fewer leave days and shorter holidays. The union has filed a complaint with the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai army medic accused of injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccine during UN mission

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai army medic accused of injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccine during UN mission | The Thaiger
Stock photo via Pexels

A medic for the Royal Thai Army was dismissed and his medical license revoked after injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccines during a United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. The “vaccine” was actually just water. The medic, who is also a lieutenant, apparently injected 273 Thai troops with the water shot and charged 607 baht, or around $20 USD, per injection.

A soldier noticed the bottles the medic was using for the injections were unlabelled. A superior then launched an internal investigation and found that the bottles were just filled with water. Under the UN’s orders, the medic was dismissed and sent back to Thailand. His medical license was also revoked.

Thai media first reported the news, saying that a Thai army doctor at a South Sudan field hospital was suspended from duty due to an investigation into alleged fraud. The medic reportedly worked at the hospital from December 2019 to December 2020.

Following the news report, Thai Supreme Commander General Chalermphol Srisawat confirmed that a medic had been injecting troops with water and claiming it was a Covid-19 vaccine.

SOURCES: Thai PBS | Nation Thailand

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