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Prayut held accountable for spyware use against political opponents

By Thai Newsroom Reporters

PRIME MINISTER PRAYUT Chan-o-cha was today (July 21) held accountable for the alleged use of spyware data hacking systems against his political opponents and critics.

During the third day of the four-day censure debate at parliament, Move Forward MP Pijarn Chaopattanawong alleged that Prayut had managed to use spyware systems called Pegasus and Circles to hack into iPhone data used by some politicians, academics and political activists since 2014, the year in which he orchestrated a coup as army chief to depose an elected government.

So far, 35 people viewed as enemies of the Prayut regime have been reportedly spied upon by security-related agencies at the orders of the premier with the use of the spyware systems, according to the Move Forward legislator.

Those included Move Forward party secretary-general/MP Chaithawat Tulathon, Move Forward MP Bencha Saengchantra, Progressive Movement Group leaders Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and Pannika Wanich, Chulalongkorn University political scientist Puangthong Pawakapan and Thammasat University political scientist Prajak Kongkirati.

Those spyware victims are widely known to have been strongly opposed to the Prayut regime since the army chief-turned-premier orchestrated the coup, the Move Forward MP said.

“They are absolutely no human traffickers, drug dealers, armed terrorists or any other types of criminal but are primarily viewed as anti-Prayut elements.

“The spyware systems obviously are not used against those who might possibly be considered a threat to national security but a threat to Prayut’s personal security,” the Move Forward MP commented.

Pijarn said Prayut would instantly mention the Royal Household and national security whenever he is cornered in debate with lawmakers or others about his alleged violation of human rights principles.

The unelected premier has been usually taken to task by his critics for managing to have pro-democracy activists and other street protesters arrested under sedition and lese majeste charges.

The sustained use of the spyware systems tampering with its victims’ iPhones was undeniably a severe breach to human rights and individual freedom, Pijarn said.

The agencies currently using the spyware systems include an army intelligence battalion and the Internal Security Operations Command, the agencies which may conduct missions at the orders of the premier who concurrently performs as defence minister, and the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, according to the opposition MP.

Though Israel’s NSO Group, manufacturer of the Pegasus system, may no longer deliver it to Thailand for fear that it would not only be used in missions related to national security affairs but in jeopardy of human rights and individual freedom, the premier might probably manage to continue to procure it in surreptitious manner, Pijarn said.

Thailand, reported to have so far bought the spyware systems for about 700 million baht, had earlier ranked among 140-plus countries worldwide supplied with the Pegasus system. Of that total, only 37 countries with Thailand not being included are currently provided with it, he said.


Top: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, left, and Move Forward MP Pijarn Chaopattanawong, right, during today’s censure debate.

Front Page: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha arriving at the parliament today. Both photos: Matichon

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