Client privacy at risk in Thai banks
BANGKOK: A story in today’s “Nation” reveals that the Thai government may have sought, and may still be seeking, direct online access to the accounts of companies and private individuals doing business with any of Thailand’s commercial banks. The Thai Bankers Association, citing customer privacy, has rejected a request, made through the government’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), for direct links to the commercial banks’ databases. The online-system plan was revised after banks insisted that they must protect their customers’ rights to privacy, said Tawatchai Yongkittikul, the association’s secretary-general. The revised plan calls for banks to continue handling the AMLO’s requests for customer information, but its details have yet to be finalised. However, PM’s Office Minister Thamarak Isarangura, who oversees the AMLO, said yesterday that he did not “think” the agency had requested a direct link to banks’ databases. “The AMLO is already empowered to ask banks for information about suspicious bank accounts,” he noted. Thamarak said that he would raise the matter at an AMLO meeting on Thursday. Tawatchai said the association had met once to discuss the issue after the AMLO, citing a need to reduce “information leakage”, made the request for the new system. “At first, the AMLO wanted to link directly into the banks’ computer databases. I think the AMLO may not understand how banks work [in matters of client privacy]. So we [the Thai Bankers Association] told them we need to have our own security, as we have to be responsible for clients’ privacy,” he said.
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