International over-the-top (OTT) content providers have been the bane of Thai regulator National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's (NBTC) existence over the past few months.
The supposedly independent communications censor seems to be
obsessed with finding ways to curb the likes of Facebook, Google, YouTube and Alibaba. In early April it boldly suggested imposing some kind of bandwidth fee on the consumption of OTT services, requiring OTT players to have an operating licence to run a
business in Thailand and even making them pay a value-added service tax for transactions by local merchants.
The head of the broadcasting committee, Natee Sukonrat, was quoted as saying users on social media who influence public opinion will have
to be reined in.
What on the surface may seem to be an effort to create a more level playing field for the mobile players could also be seen as a thinly disguised attempt to give the regulator the power to more easily monitor and censor content
the government is finding difficult to regulate. The widely-criticised proposals are merely a backhanded move to bypass current legal processes and give the regulator the authority to demand the removal of content the military-run government considers
illegal without waiting for a court order, which the government has complained is time consuming.
Facebook and co would not play ball with Thai government requests and the government was forced drop the plan to register OTT players for tax
purposes. However the government said that it would push ahead to replace several weak points in the censorship process and come up with a revised proposal in 30 days.
And now the junta's ominously named National Reform Steering Assembly this
month approved an 84-page social media censorship proposal, which would require such things as fingerprint and facial scanning just to top-up a prepaid plan, all in an effort to be able to identify those posting content to OTT services. The push for
fingerprint and facial recognition is in addition to existing requirements for all SIM users to register with their 13-digit national IDs.
Commentators say the stringent rules are similar to those in use in China and Iran.