Last week, word surfaced that Thai authorities were planning to create a single entry point for international internet traffic, through which all existing gateway facilities would be required to route their services. An official report from a cabinet meeting said the gateway would allow the government to “control inappropriate websites and the influx of information and news from overseas to Thailand.”
Public reaction to the proposal has been stridently negative and Thailand’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology Uttama Savanyana has attempted to dampen the outrage, saying the gateway was intended to “serve basic economic needs, not for national security purposes.” Uttama told the Bangkok Post that the government wouldn’t force existing gateways to share facilities “but will ask for voluntary access to the gateway.”
On Monday, Agence France Presse quoted a ministry spokesman saying the Thai public would be updated on the proposal soon. The original cabinet document, which was finalized in July but only published last week, specified a target date for implementation by the end of the current fiscal year, which closes out Sept. 30.
Thailand had a single international internet gateway until 2006, when it relaxed its grip on internet traffic, leading to the establishment of over 100 internet service providers who currently funnel traffic through nine international gateways. Apart from censorship concerns, critics of the proposed firewall warn that the country’s internet access will be more prone to total shutdown if all traffic is routed through a single hub.
Thailand has not been shy about blocking international sites it deems problematic, including thousands of online gambling domains and sites that are critical of Thailand’s royal family. Online openness advocates Freedom House have reported that such blocking has accelerated following the 2014 military coup that brought the current regime to power.