Thai intelligence agency given sweeping powers to seize data

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BANGKOK (April 18): Thailand’s spy agency has been awarded sweeping new powers to use “any methods” to obtain information if there’s a threat to national stability.

The new law, which was published Tuesday on the state’s official news site, the Royal Gazette, broadens the powers of the intelligence agency.

It allows the National Intelligence Agency — the country’s counter-intelligence and security agency, akin to the US’s Central Intelligence Agency — to order cooperation from “government offices and individuals” to hand over any information that may affect the nation’s security.

The prime minister needs to sign off on the process. Currently, that’s Prayuth Chan-Ocha, a former army chief turned political leader in the country’s 2014 coup. If any agency or individual fails to comply with the NIA, the premier must be informed and the intelligence agency “may use any methods, including electronic, telecommunications, or science equipment to gain the information or documents,” the bill reads.

The law was passed and announced under Prayuth’s administration, which is still in power following March’s disputed and inconclusive ballot that followed almost five years of military rule. Thailand’s election agency has until May 9 to certify the results.

The new intelligence bill follows the cyber-security law that was passed earlier this year, which raised concerns from critics that it could be used as a weapon to stifle political dissent.