New bill to give Thai spy agency sweeping powers
By Agence France-Presse
Thailand’s spy agency is set to be handed carte blanche powers to obtain information believed to threaten the country’s security using “any methods”, according to a bill announced Wednesday.
The bill, published by palace mouthpiece the Royal Gazette, comes less than a month after disputed elections which saw both the ruling junta and an opposition coalition claim the right to form a government.
The law, which was last discussed by Thailand’s rubberstamp parliament in early February but has largely escaped public notice, is to be enforced from Thursday, the announcement said.
It empowers the National Intelligence Agency — which handles the country’s counter-intelligence and security operations — to “order government offices and individuals” to turn over any information affecting the country’s security.
This process is to be run under the approval of the country’s premier — currently junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.
If the initial order to turn over information is ignored, the prime minister will be informed and the NIA “may use any methods, including electronic, telecommunications, or science equipments to gain the information or documents”.
The bill, which consists of 17 articles, will replace the 1985 intelligence law which is currently “not relevant with the security threat and technology that has changed”, said a note at the end of the bill.
Since the junta came into power in 2014 after ousting then-premier Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup, a raft of laws have been passed that rights groups say restricts dissent.
The intelligence bill will join a recently passed cybersecurity law, which had triggered pushback from rights groups and companies worried about privacy breaches as it allows authorities to seize any computers or devices without a court warrant if there are “critical threats” to cybersecurity.
A committee will determine these threats in cases of “reasonable suspicion”.
Junta leader Prayut is currently tipped to return to power as a civilian premier under his military-aligned Palang Pracharat party, which won the popular vote in last month’s election.
But the anti-junta coalition says it has the majority of seats in the lower house, and Thailand’s Election Commission has been dogged with criticism over bungled vote counts, inconsistent tallies and more than 2.1 million invalidated ballots.
The poll body had previously said a final tally would be announced by May 9, has warned complete results may take even longer.