BANGKOK – Thai police have detained nine Netizen‘s suspected of hacking government websites to protest against amendments to a cyber security law that critics say strengthens the authorities’ oversight of the internet.
Parliament passed legislation this month amending a cyber crime law, which rights groups said would likely to lead to more extensive online monitoring by the state.
In response, hackers launched a wave of cyber attacks last week, shutting down dozens of government websites.
The Facebook group, with the name Citizens Against Single Gateway, earlier this month called for a “cyberwar.” The group on Dec. 19 claimed responsibility for temporarily bringing down the Thai defense ministry’s website.
Other hackers, operating as part of the informal activist network Anonymous, have been posting data they say is from government computers.
However the government said the websites were only down temporarily and the attacks caused minimum disruption.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters nine people had been arrested in connection with the hacking.
One of those arrested has been charged with breaking the cyber crime law, police said.
Natdanai Kongdee, 19, was charged with gaining unauthorized access to police data, along with illegal possession of firearms and marijuana, allegedly found when police searched his house.
The legal status of the other people arrested was not explained.
“The rest remain in custody and are being processed in accordance with the law,” police spokesman Dejnarong Suthicharnbancha told Reuters.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said, “If we do not have any laws or write it down to make it clearer and if they continue to do this, what can we do?” Should hackers simply be allowed to poke into personal data, he asked reporters rhetorically.
“We’ve talked about it many times. Everything is passed. Talk about something else,” said Prayuth, who is noted for his brusque manner of speaking.
Thailand’s military government has increased online censorship since it seized power in a 2014 coup, in particular to block perceived insults to the royal family.
Criticism of the monarch, the regent or the heir is a crime known by the French term lese majeste, which carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years. Authorities have shut down hundreds of websites carrying what they consider to be material critical of the monarchy.
The military government is also sensitive about criticism of the 2014 coup, and a new constitution subsequently drawn up.
The government has promised to hold an election in 2017.
By Cod Satrusayang and Panarat Thepgumpanat – Reuters
Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Robert Birsel