National security tops list in Zuckerberg talks



Facebook co-founder’s visit seen as boost to country’s digital economy.

NATIONAL security issues and digital business opportunities will likely figure prominently during talks between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, when they meet later this month in Bangkok.

The Thai premier is expected to raise key issues concerning the widespread use of social media at the October 30 meeting.

The Thai government’s concerns on online dissemination of information deemed to threaten national security, will be one of the issues discussed, according to Deputy Government Spokesperson Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak.

“It is a concern of every country since social media has both positive and negative outcomes. We should be careful using this innovation which can also be abused by some people. However, there should also be discussions on how social media can be |used creatively,” Werachon said.

During his meeting with Zuckerberg, Prayut is also expected to seek cooperation in tackling transnational crime issues. They would include previous attempts to curb critical and offensive social media accounts, including those on the Facebook platform where controversial comments and opinions were posted and shared in violation of lese majeste and other laws.

 While it is not possible to tell Facebook what it can and cannot do, Thai authorities and social media users have resorted to their own method of reporting unsuitable posts and comments to keep them from public view.

Last year, a political satire Facebook page called “We Love Gen Prayut” was shut down and its administrators were charged with sedition under the computer crime bill. In April this year, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society also issued a regulation stating that it is wrong to follow, share or interact online with three figures critical of the monarchy, namely Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Andrew MacGregor Marshall and Pavin Chachavalpongpun.

Zuckerberg’s visit is a positive opportunity to boost the country’s prospects in the digital economy and business world.

Deputy premier Somkid Jatusripitak said Zuckerberg’s visit underlines the social media giant’s interest in Thailand as its huge data centres around the world connect billions of users and there are business and investment opportunities in Asean countries.

As one of the world’s largest online businesses, Facebook is a key global player keen in further expanding its business into Asean where major US and Chinese players have already set up their branches in Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam and Thailand is being closely watched, said Somkid.

Nakrop Niamnamtham, managing director, nForce Secure Co, Thailand’s leading distributor of security solutions, said Zuckerberg’s visit is good for Thailand and other Asean countries where Facebook has many users. Thailand is ranked one of Facebook’s top-10 markets along with the Philippines and Vietnam, he said.

Since Thailand is situated at the centre of mainland Asean countries geographically, there could be business cooperation in e-commerce and other areas in connection with the giant social media platform. He said there could also be opportunities for the company to invest in digital and related hubs as well as a data centre.

Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, president of Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) said Facebook could be interested in the so-called Big Data area as Thailand has competitive advantages in terms of location and logistic infrastructure connecting north and southeast Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Big data covering corporate, business and other areas are crucial to digital businesses as well as tech start-ups that are set to boom in Thailand and other regional markets.


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