Thailand Television Ad Censorship Call Harbingers Thailand’s Rush To Censorship

A suggestive Thailand television advertisement for fertiiser has the country’s Ministry of Culture (MoC) up in arms, calling on the regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to strengthen advertising laws applicable to cable and satellite broadcasters.

According to local English-language newspaper Bangkok Post the ministry’s permanent secretary, Apinan Poshyananda, told a seminar on sex in advertising on Tuesday that the ministry had received several complaints about inappropriate commercials on cable and satellite television that show women wearing skimpy clothing.

Explaining that as far as he knew the NBTC has no censorship restrictions on TV commercials on cable and satellite television, Mr Poshyananda is quoted as saying: “I plan to meet the NBTC and discuss how to oversee and control the advertising content broadcast on TV.

Thailand television ad censorship call ignores the widespread use of "pretties" throughout the kingdomAEC News Today File
Thailand television ad censorship call ignores the widespread use of “pretties” throughout the kingdom

“I’ve seen a fertiliser product advertisement using sexy-looking women even though they have absolutely nothing to do with the product being advertised.

“If we let this kind of ad on TV where it can be seen by children, then I am worried women will still be seen and used as sex objects [in advertising],” Mr Poshyananda said.

The Bangkok Post story then goes on to explain Mr Poshyananda’s intention to seek the cooperation of the country’s powerful Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) to get its help “in regulating advertisements on websites, mobile sites, and Facebook that use sexual imagery to sell products”.

That scantily clad so-called “pretties” (product demonstrators) are a feature at almost every super market, shopping mall, or trade show held in the kingdom seems to have been overlooked by Mr Poshyananda in his rush to promote the military juntas goal of increased censorship.

Thailand’s Rush To Censorship

Product promoters or “pretties” are common throughout Thailand, though there was no calls to censor this promotion

The call for increased censorship coincides with news that the Thailand military junta is proceeding with plans to increase surveillance and censorship of internet content by reducing the number of international Thailand internet gateways from the current ten to just one.

According several local media reports the junta cabinet issued fresh orders to relevant ministries and officials on September 4 to report back by the end of the month with details of any legislation that need to be changed to enforce a single international Thailand internet gateway.

Proposed by the MICT immediately after the May 22, 2014 military coup d’état which ousted the caretaker government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, there has been few updates to the proposal of a single international Thailand internet gateway until June this year when national police chief, Police General Somyot Poompunmuang, raised the matter again.

At the time he said a single international Thailand internet gateway would make it much easier for authorities to monitor, filter, delete, and intercept information on the internet that could be deemed inappropriate.

According to Telecomasia the cabinet issued an unpublicised order to proceed with the concept at a meeting on June 30, with the latest order the result of the first round of reports having been submitted.

“The continued existence of the single gateway project makes a total mockery of everything new ICT Minister Uttama Savanayana said about turning Thailand into a data center hub for the region and building better connectivity. Would anyone in their right mind host a regional operation in Thailand under these circumstances?

A return to the gold old days of a CAT monopoly would be disastrous. The people of Thailand can kiss a fast internet goodbye purely from technical incompetence, not to mention all the monitoring, censoring and deep packet inspection the military want”, veteran telecommunications industry journalist Don Sambadaraksa wrote.

He then goes on to opine that a logical target of legislative change are those relating to services that make encrypted data transfer possible, such as virtual private network (VPN) services such as WiTopia or Tor.

Since the 2010 anti-government protests increasing numbers of Thais and foreigners have taken to using VPN services to guard against the prying eyes of the MICT and Royal Thai Police (RTP), both of who actively patrol social media networks such as Line, Facebook or Twitter using false identities and spoof pages in an attempt to identify coup opponents, or those insulting  Thailand’s royal institution.

AEC News Today spoke to the heads of several chambers of commerce in Bangkok, as well as individual business owners over their reaction to the proposed single international Thailand internet gateway, increased state surveillance, and the possibility of encrypted data being made illegal. None were prepared to comment on the record for this story.

Since the middle of the year Thailand internet users have been experiencing increasing occurrences of highly degraded internet throughput.

One security expert from an international VPN supplier who examined test results and performed his own tests said the results appeared to indicate deep packet inspection, similar to results seen in China and Iran. “The data remains encrypted so long as the link is maintained, but the attempts to pry are not subtle and are severely degarding throughput”, he said.

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