Thailand arrests 9 cyber warriors for hacking government sites in protest against internet laws

The government says the websites were only down temporarily and the attacks caused minimum disruption.

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A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw Reuters (Representational Image)

Thai police have detained nine suspects for hacking government websites in protest against amendments to a cyber security law that critics say strengthens the authorities' oversight of the internet.

Earlier this month, the parliament passed legislation amending a cyber crime law that was said to be likely leading to more extensive online monitoring by the state. But last week, the hackers launched a wave of cyber attacks resulting in a shutdown of dozens of government websites.

According to the government, the websites were only down temporarily and the attacks caused minimum disruption. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said these nine people had been arrested in connection with the hacking. However, the police said one of those nine suspects has been charged with breaking the cyber crime law.

"The rest remain in custody and are being processed in accordance with the law," police spokesman Dejnarong Suthicharnbancha told Reuters.

Ever since Thailand's military government seized power in a 2014 coup, it has increased online censorship especially to block perceived insults to the royal family. After the ascension of new King Maha Vajiralongkorn following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Thai authorities have shut down hundreds of websites that reportedly carryied what they consider to be material critical of the monarchy.

Any form of criticism of the monarch, the regent or the heir is a crime or punishable offence known by the French term lese majeste. It carries a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.

Apart from the criticism of the monarchy, the military government is also sensitive about criticism of the 2014 coup. A new constitution has also been subsequently drawn up. The government has promised to hold an election in 2017.