It’s turning out to be another busy week for Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which has announced stiff new regulations to clamp down on the problems of Lese Majeste content and unlicensed Internet TV boxes.
The NBTC and Commission and Digital Economy Ministry staged a meeting aimed at cracking down on content disrespectful to the monarchy (commonly referred to as Lese Majeste), which is a crime punishable by three to five years in jail.
NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasit announced that the regulator would be sending letters to the country’s ISPs and IIGs (international internet gateways) summoning them for a meeting on April 27 to find a way to make significant progress in blocking Lese Majeste content. Takorn noted that unless meaningful progress was made before April 30, the networks would be punished to the fullest extent possible and risked losing their licenses when they come up for renewal.
Takorn noted that the biggest obstacle to blocking Lese Majeste content is encryption, and said that this was a concern for security agencies at the highest level.
In the case of content that was even borderline Lese Majeste, Takorn said the ISPs must proactively remove the content immediately without waiting for a court order or instructions from the regulator.
If the content cannot be removed because of encryption, the ISP or IIG must immediately write to the Digital Economy Ministry or other concerned department so that they may liaise with foreign agencies on the matter.
Takorn’s order goes above and beyond the recently passed Computer Crime Act that calls for the establishment of a morality panel within the Digital Economy Ministry that can order “immoral” but otherwise legal content to be blocked.
Internet TV device: unlicensed no more
Meanwhile, the NBTC also issued a Internet TV Box notification [PDF] that slaps licensing requirements on Internet TV devices in the Kingdom of Thailand.
The notification specifically mentions Media Box, Android Box, Apple TV Box [sic], TV Stick, HDMI Dongle and Chromecast, and any other device that can perform a similar function.
The notification went into force on Tuesday, and gives a grace period of 60 days for people who import, sell, stock or set up such devices to apply for a license. Anyone found to be doing any of those things without a license will be punished under Article 70 of the Broadcasting Act BE 2551 (2008), and faces a maximum two-year jail sentence and a $29,000 (1 million baht) fine.
The rationale given in the notification is that such devices are used for piracy, and this causes damage to the country and to content rights holders, as well as cast the country in a negative light.
Given that any modern PC can perform a similar function, the notification could have repercussions far beyond the broadcasting space if the law is followed to the letter.