Thailand’s military plans to establish a new cyber warfare unit, officials confirmed this week.
According to Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Thailand will establish a new group to counter growing cyber threats.
“It’s to prevent new types of threats, it’s a preemptive measure,” he said October 20 according to media reports. He did not elaborate on which specific threats he was referring to or what the exact mandate of the new unit would be.
At a meeting a day earlier, General Sommai Kaotira, the supreme commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTAF), had said that the new unit would comprise all three armed forces as well as the Royal Thai Police. He added that the unit was part of a broader five-year roadmap in line with the plans of Thailand’s ruling junta which seized power in a coup last May.
The move comes amid controversial plans by the ruling junta to create a single access point to the Internet. Opponents have labeled it the “Great Firewall of Thailand” – comparing it to a similar scheme in China – because it would tighten web surveillance and undermine free speech. Though Thai officials have recently said that the so-called single gateway plan would be scrapped, activists say it could always be revived unless a clear, formal commitment is made to abandon it.
In response, some Internet freedom advocates have also threatened to wage “cyber war” against the government to make clear their discontent. For instance, local media outlets have reported that a group called “Thailand F5 Cyber Army” has been recruiting netizens through online courses aimed at temporarily shutting down government websites.
“What we’ve done so far is only symbolic. We want the government to realize the extent to which people are against the proposal,” an unnamed team representative told The Bangkok Post. “As for serious attacks on the government’s IT system – we haven’t even started them.”