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Thai Coup
Thailand May Get Its Own Great Firewall

The Great Firewall of China is an object of envy for authoritarian leaders everywhere, as it successfully controls the flow of information to and from over one billion people. No wonder, then, that the Thai government is looking to copy China with its own firewall. Tech in Asia reports:

Thailand already makes use of web censorship, but a single point of entry for web traffic will make it a lot easier for the country to set up blocks. With legal changes, it could mean that the government would no longer need to request internet service providers (ISPs) to block a site or take out court orders. Instead, it could mandate ISPs to implement a block with no legal recourse left for either the ISPs or citizens.

It is relatively easy for a government to block access to individual websites, but today’s internet carries much more than website data. From emails to messaging apps, a great deal of internet traffic often has no traditional web address. The Great Firewall blocks some messaging apps and encrypted Virtual Private Networks, in addition to thousands of websites like Bloomberg, the New York Times, and Google’s myriad services.

The Thai government’s move to copy that kind of control is of a piece with its other actions. A year after a coup drew the (empty) denunciation of the United States, the ruling military junta continues to trample on human rights. Just this past Tuesday, for instance, the government blocked the printing of the International New York Times because it featured a cover story about the declining health of Thailand’s 87-year-old king.

This story is not just a cautionary tale about the future of internet freedom worldwide. It also underscores a point we made in February: Loudly chiding illiberal governments is not the best way to soften them. Stern State Department statements have not persuaded Bangkok to back down, and, with this latest effort to enhance their censorship abilities, Thailand’s leaders are making it clear they have every intention of doubling down on their authoritarian ways.

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  • Kevin

    Yes, there has been a remarkable lack of nuance and sophistication to be found in the administration’s foreign policy – especially for a crew that prides themselves on this.

    It’s remarkable how few academics they have been included in Obam’s top foreign policy posts compared to past Democratic administrations. (S. Powers is more a journalist/activist than a serious scholar of foreign policy in my opinion – not at all in the tradition of Brzezinski or Albright – while both Cinton and Kerry are nobody’s idea of a deep thinker.)

    Much as I’m not a fan of Realism, Obama could have benefitted from someone who was a serious thinker in this tradition if he wanted to pull off an offshore balancing move with his pivot to Asia and repositioning in the Middle East or Europe. Or someone who had thought about Liberal Internationalism and what it requires if he wanted to pursue a policy focuse on building up international institutions and international law. The cure to gang compares quite unfavorably in intellectual horsepower to Cemelot when half of Harvard wet to DC. I don’t think we are going to to see Kerry or Cinton penning “Present at the Creation” about Obama’s foreign policy.

    • Tom

      The lack of Harvard graduates is not in and of itself a bad thing, but there does seem to be a shortage of intellectual heft and experience at the top of this administration.
      Contrast Bush 41’s team with this one–there’s no comparison, starting at the top and going all the way down.

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