Thai pro-democracy activists were spied on with Pegasus: report
Bangkok, Jul 18 (EFE).- Dozens of activists who demand democratic reforms in Thailand, including that of the monarchy, were spied on between 2020 and 2021 with Israeli spyware program Pegasus, according to a Monday report.
The independent investigation by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, Thai law group iLaw, rights groups Digital Reach and Amnesty International, found the mobile phones of at least 30 people had been tapped by the program between October 2020 and November 2021.
Among them are Arnon Nampa, Benja Apan and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, three leaders at the forefront of protests accused of several crimes, such as royal defamation, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“We can now officially add Thailand to the growing list of countries where people peacefully calling for change, expressing an opinion or discussing government policy can be subjected to invasive surveillance,” Etienne Maynier, a technology expert at Amnesty International, said Monday.
The first suspicions about the use of surveillance programs came in November 2021, when technology giant Apple sent notifications to activists’ phones about the use of spyware on their devices.
“Instead of listening and talking to these protesters, academics and human rights defenders, intrusive surveillance has been used to harass, intimidate and attack them in an attempt to break their spirit and create a chilling effect throughout society,” Maynier said.
Amnesty said it urged the Thai government to “independently, quickly, exhaustively and effectively” investigate the use of Pegasus against activists.
“It is worth noting that this is only what has been found so far, and the scale of the surveillance could be greater (…) These revelations are an example of how low authorities can stoop to control peaceful dissent,” Maynier said.
The organization also called on authorities to take “the necessary measures to promote a safe environment for civic participation,” including modifying several laws, which have been widely used against the reformist movement.
The pro-democracy protests began in July 2020 led by young university students and activists who demand democratic reform in Thailand, including changes to the monarchy’s powers.
Among the demands are the resignation of the prime minister and the drafting of a new constitution, as the current one was written by a military government, and a reduction in the armed forces’ power.
The Covid-19 pandemic and judicial harassment by authorities against the leaders slowed down the movement. EFE