Thailand is a popular holiday destination thanks to its breathtaking landscapes and rich culture. Unfortunately, the country’s stability is almost constantly under threat and at the moment, freedom of speech is severely restricted. Following the military coup in 2014, the junta led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha has taken measures that prevent people in Thailand to express their opinion without fear.
At the moment, Freedom House lists the status of the press in Thailand as not free and several incidents (including a single mother being sentenced to 7 years in prison for posting content online that insulted the monarchy and a man facing charges of sedition for allegedly making fun the King’s dog) have demonstrated that censorship has taken over the country. To understand better why it is important to use a VPN, we’ll discuss some aspects that highlight the restrictions that affect online users in Thailand.
Online Censorship and surveillance in Thailand
After the coup, the military leaders involved suspended the 2007 constitution and implemented a strict regime to prevent any criticism of their actions. The press was silenced and the existing laws against defamation and lese-majesté (criticizing the monarchy), were aggressively enforced. With the suspension of the constitution, any legal protection for freedom of speech became invalid. Several journalists were arrested for publishing information against the regime, including an editor from an online magazine who posted a message on Facebook criticizing the coup.
Prior to the coup, selective filtering was already applied in Thailand and it is estimated that at least 100,000 websites were blocked, although it is likely that this figure has increased since the military regime came to power in 2014. Before that, most websites blocked referred to social and political information, as well as internet tools. As part of the restrictive measures implemented by the junta, foreign broadcasts were blocked and ISPs were forced to stop offering their service to those who oppose the new government.
To make things worse, the junta has plans to take further steps to control internet. It appears that the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology is working in a national internet gateway. This will allow them to censor online content more effectively as internet would be reduced to a single gateway. There are already teams in charge of monitoring and analyzing content, to block websites and address information that goes against the law in the country.
Rights campaigners and those who oppose the junta are worried about the severe way in which the law designed to protect the royal family from insults is being applied. As illustrated in the cases mentioned earlier on, the penalties seem way too harsh, forcing people in Thailand to watch every word they say and everything they share on internet. While the media and many internet users have opted for self-censorship, some are fighting back with the help of technology.
VPN Services for Thailand
The use of VPNs an other privacy focused technologies that allow users to bypass censorship has increased significantly in Thailand over the last few years. A VPN not only allows you to protect your privacy and access websites that have been blocked by the goverment, it also provides access to streaming services that are only available in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Most providers offer servers in these locations, allowing you to watch media that is generally subject to geographical blocks.
Protecting privacy is crucial in all cases, but it is particularly important for people who live under restrictive governments. Users in Thailand who want to enjoy online freedom, should consider a VPN that doesn’t keep logs (or that at least doesn’t keep usage logs) and that offers a high level of encryption. A good option would be to connect to a server in Hong Kong, a country known for its mostly uncensored and free internet access. It is also relatively close so you won’t experience significant slowdowns.
PureVPN is a provider based in Hong Kong and apart from offering a high level of encryption, it comes with multiple features that enhance the security and versatility of your connection. They don’t keep logs of your online activities and P2P is permitted in their network. You can connect to servers in 141 countries, including several locations in Asia. Bitcoin can be used as method of payment and up to five simultaneous connections are allowed.
NordVPN is a very solid option to protect your privacy thanks to its strong encryption, no logs policy and top grade encryption. Since the provider is based in Panama, it is not subject to strict laws that compromise privacy. They secure your data with AES 256-bit encryption, with RSA handshakes and SHA-2 authentication. They also offer options like double encryption, Tor over VPN and there is a free trial that allows to test the service for three days.
ExpressVPN operates from the British Virgin Islands and offers an impressively fast service that will allow you to stream international content without hassle. There are servers available in 87 countries, including United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan. This provider doesn’t keep logs of your online activities and they accept Bitcoin payments. The level of encryption is quite strong and ExpressVPN is known as one of the best providers in the industry.
Private Internet Access
The low prices of PIA’s plans attract many customers, but what makes them stay loyal to the service is the high security and reliability of the service. You can connect up to five devices simultaneously and enjoy access to servers in 24 countries, including Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, United States and United Kingdom. PIA offers useful features such as Kill switch and DNS leak protection. Bitcoin is available as method of payment they don’t keep logs of your online activity.
The exclusive Chameleon technology that VyprVPN offers, allows you to bypass firewalls effectively because it disguises your VPN traffic. This is an ideal feature for countries that are under strict online censorship. With VyprVPN you can also enjoy great speeds and their selection of servers includes options in countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Japon. They don’t keep logs of your online traffic and the speeds are generally very good.