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In light of the upcoming general election in Thailand, EngageMedia, Asia Centre, and the Chiang Mai University-School of Public Policy present four key digital rights issues that political parties must include in their agenda to ensure a well-functioning democracy where citizens can hold their government accountable. These issues could be addressed through legal amendment and the cessation of practices detrimental to the enjoyment of fundamental rights.
First, promote and protect freedom of expression. Despite the constitutional guarantees, freedom of expression is severely restricted in Thailand. Laws such as the Computer Crime Act and Articles 112 and 116 of the Penal Code are used to prosecute critics, journalists, human rights activists and academics for critical content, especially online. This crackdown has hampered freedom of expression in Thailand and fostered a culture of self-censorship.
Second, to promote transparency and hold the government accountable, officials must ensure access to information. Despite the Official Information Act, the Thai government has consistently invoked national security and public order to either refuse information disclosure requests or petition internet service providers and social media platforms to censor content deemed sensitive.
Third, protect citizens’ right to privacy. Political parties should prioritise policies and practices that safeguard citizens’ personal data from being collected, stored, or shared without proper consent or deviating from its original purposes. In addition, national security should never be an excuse to keep tabs on citizens’ communication or activities, let alone the exercise of fundamental rights.
Fourth, combating online disinformation is crucial to keep citizens informed and ensure that democracy works in the current digital age. While the government has established a fact-checking mechanism, this does not align with international standards and is often used to defend government positions. Reforms are needed to regain people’s trust in public institutions.
Political parties in Thailand should give these issues primary focus on their agendas. Laws and practices that compromise the exercise of freedom of expression, right to information, and privacy must be revised or corrected.
Read the full report in English:
4-Point Agenda: Thai civil society calls on political parties to uphold digital rights
Read the full report in Thai:
This report will be presented to political parties and candidates at the launch event on February 24, 2023, 6:30PM onwards at the Asia Center Meeting Hub in Phaya Thai. The launch will be followed by a roundtable discussion with various stakeholders from civil society. The event will be conducted in Thai and will feature Thai press.