Thai gov’t web­sites crash, ‘sym­bolic act’ by cen­sor­ship crit­ics

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Sev­eral Thai gov­ern­ment web­sites tem­po­rar­ily crashed due to a “sym­bolic act” by peo­ple against plans to in­tro­duce a sin­gle In­ter­net gate­way, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day, a mea­sure crit­ics say will make it eas­ier for the rul­ing junta to cen­sor the web.

A min­is­ter stopped short of de­scrib­ing the in­ci­dent as a cy­ber­at­tack but said that it was trig­gered by those op­posed to the pro­posal, dubbed by some online as the “Great Fire­wall of Thai­land” — a play on China’s dra­co­nian In­ter­net cen­sor­ship pro­gram.

The Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy’s ( ICT) web­site went down for more than two hours on Wed­nes­day evening af­ter it was “over­crowded” by the num­ber of users, ICT deputy per­ma­nent sec­re­tary Som­sak Khaosu- wan, told AFP.

“There were sev­eral other gov­ern­ment web­sites which faced sim­i­lar prob­lems,” he said, adding ac­cess to the sites had been re­stored by Thurs­day morn­ing.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion against plans to in­tro­duce a sin­gle In­ter­net gate­way for Thai­land to make it eas­ier to mon­i­tor the web and block con­tent.

By Thurs­day af­ter­noon more than 132,000 peo­ple had signed a pe­ti­tion on Change.org call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to aban­don the pro­posal, while the state web­sites that had crashed ap­peared to be run­ning but more slowly than usual.

At a press con­fer­ence ear­lier ICT min­is­ter Ut­tama Sa­van­naya said traf­fic on the min­istry’s web­site ex­ceeded ca­pac­ity, reach­ing 100,000 on Wed­nes­day, caus­ing it to crash.

“It was a sym­bolic act by peo­ple con­cerned about the sin­gle In­ter­net gate­way. We do not think they aimed to at­tack gov­ern­ment web­sites,” he told re­porters in Bangkok.

In­ter­net gate­ways are the points on a net­work where a coun­try con­nects to the World Wide Web.

Ini­tially Thai­land’s In­ter­net flowed through a sin­gle gate­way owned by the gov­ern­ment.

But the sec­tor was dereg­u­lated in 2006, al­low­ing dozens of com­pa­nies to open their own ac­cess points — re­sult­ing in dra­mat­i­cally in­creased In­ter­net speeds and Thai­land emerg­ing as a re­gional IT hub.

The junta which seized power in a coup last year has vowed to ex­pand the coun­try’s ap­peal as a hub, un­veil­ing a plan it has dubbed “The Dig­i­tal Econ­omy.” On Thurs­day Ut­tama in­sisted there would be “no lim­i­ta­tion of free­dom” un­der the pro­posal.

“We will not in­ter­fere in the use of In­ter­net or so­cial media,” he said.

But the min­is­ter added that the Thai premier Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led last year’s coup as then army chief, was con­cerned about some “in­ap­pro­pri­ate in­for­ma­tion” ac­cessed by Thais, par­tic­u­larly teenagers.

Since seiz­ing power Thai­land’s gen­er­als have ramped up cen­sor­ship, block­ing scores of sites and pur­su­ing online crit­ics with crim­i­nal charges and so-called at­ti­tude ad­just­ment ses­sions.

Crit­ics of the sin­gle In­ter­net gate­way plan say it will al­low the mil­i­tary to fur­ther in­crease cen­sor­ship as well as leave the coun­try’s IT hub sta­tus vul­ner­a­ble if the gate­way fails.

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