The Thai government is considering a firewall similar to China’s, reducing the number of internet gateways from ten to just one, according to a cabinet document. Over 80,000 people have since signed a petition to protest the move on group action site Change.org.
The statement, which came from Thailand’s cabinet, emerged last week and contains an order directed at the country’s Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology to begin work on creating the single gateway.
Currently, most of the ten internet gateways are managed by non-government companies, each capable of setting and removing controls. A unified gateway controlled by the government would allow the state to surveil traffic and block access to certain sites, similar to the way China blocks sites including Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Users are able to skirt the firewall using VPNs, but even these services are subject to Direct Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. At the start of this year, China launched several attacks on VPNs operating in the country, taking out several of the top services temporarily.
It comes at a politically tense time in the Asian region regarding cybersecurity and censorship.
Yesterday, just days after the US and China shook hands on an agreement to reduce cyberattacks, a former commander of one of China’s top military hacking units said that developing markets should have the right to control the internet through surveillance and other measures to stop the spread of “blood” and “hatred”, comparing the situation in Asia to the Arab Spring.
Thailand has blocked websites before, targeting social media sites in times of political turmoil. It’s a crime in Thailand to criticize the country’s ruling monarchy, and online activity can be punished by law. In the past the government has ordered multiple ISP providers to make the restrictions, the unified gateway could simplify the process.
The statement from the Thai cabinet did not give a definitive timeline on the project, and Technode was unable to verify whether the order is definitive or suggestive.