Child porn crackdown

Effective from December 1, a new law is on the Thai statute books to criminalise child pornography. Previously, the mere possession of child pornography was not considered an offence although downloading indecent material in some cases for distribution was considered criminal. The coup-appointed National Legislative Assembly voted unanimously on the new legislation earlier this year which was based on United Nations recommendations.

IMGL0013The act prescribes punishment of up to five years’ incarceration for possession of pictorial or written obscene material featuring children under 18 years, up to seven years for distribution and up to 10 years for production and trade. The Thai justice ministry explained that images of this sort are being traded for financial gain and distributed far too easily on the internet. Ministry permanent secretary, Police General Chatchawai Suksomjit, added that the law is designed to protect children from sexual abuse.

The amendment and addition of existing pornography legislation follows Thailand’s signing of the international convention on children’s rights. The materials now outlawed include visual displays, both static and in motion, of sex acts involving young people and children under 18 years. The displays in question also include portraits and drawings and files kept in electronic devices, mobile phones and computers. Courts will have the option of imposing fines of up to 200,000 baht.

A lawyer specializing in human rights issues in Thailand told Pattaya Today, “In the past, pornographic material has been introduced into a court case only where the defendant is also facing charges of molestation. What is different now is that possession of child pornography becomes a crime in its own right.” He added that, in Pattaya in particular, police action over several years had made it difficult for pedophiles to operate as freely as in the past. For example, bars and clubs catering for those seeking underage partners had been raided and closed. The age of sexual consent in Thailand is normally 18 (15 in some narrowly defined circumstances) whilst the Entertainments Venue Act of 1960 specifically bans prostitution with paid partners of any age. However, that aspect of the law has generally been ignored if both parties are adults.

He added that the new Thai legislation was in fact less severe than in some other countries. “For example, in New Zealand, it is a criminal offence even to search on the internet for sexual material relating to under 18s.” Questioned about the problems of enforcing anti-porn laws and distinguishing between obscene material and the innocence of a normal family situation where photos are sent to family and friends via social media, he said that he doubted the courts in practice would have a problem about this aspect.

Police General Chatchawai explained that the latest technology would be used in identifying users of child pornography on the internet. This would include the tackling of increasingly-popular software such as a virtual private network which hides the user’s IP address by use of a proxy server, or special software which allows the individual to access what is commonly known as “the dark side of the web”. The National Council for Peace and Order over the past year has banned access in Thailand to many sites deemed undesirable, especially those defaming Thailand or its institutions, and the list has included some pornographic sites. However, most pornography is still readily available on thousands of designated sites and throughout much of the social media.

Some commentators believe that the current argument about whether Thailand should, or should not, use a single gateway for internet access – rather than the 10 currently in use – is also partly related to the authorities’ wish to combat obscene material. “Countries like China, which do have a single gateway, have a great deal less online pornography,” said Charles Turner who specializes in international internet censorship issues.

Pin It on Pinterest