Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Silencing voices of dissent

Bangkok Post - On the approaching anniversary of the barbaric Burmese government crackdown and murders of monks and newsmen, web and Internet sites run by Burmese dissidents overseas came under heavy cyber attack; "We regret to inform you that the Irrawaddy web site is still unavailable," said an email from that popular magazine; also under denial-of-service flood attacks were the Burmese-language New Era Journal, and the Democratic Voice of Burma, based in Oslo; the blocking appeared to be coming from sites in China and Russia, the usual source for cyberwar activities, where both the government and pay-for-play hackers are generally friendly to the Burmese dictatorship; inside Burma, the extraordinarily slow Internet connections decelerated several more teeth-grinding degrees as intimidating government agents stepped up their already bullying surveillance of all customers; of course the Burmese regime knew absolutely nothing of what could cause any of this.

Iranian officials said Sunni hackers launched a series of cyberwar attacks on hundreds of Shiite web sites, including one run by the top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali Hussein al-Sistani; special targets were sites of seminaries and popular Shiite teachers; the officials blamed Sunni Wahhabis, particularly a group identified with the United Arab Emirates, for breaking into Shiite-run sites and defacing them with the slogan "group-xp" and Arab-language banners denouncing Shiite beliefs; unlike the Burma cyberwar, the pro-Wahhabi hackers struck fast and left the web sites defaced but fully accessible.

Pasa Intermation announced it had launched Namathai, a proxy service allowing surfers to type Internet addresses in Thai characters; the service aims to have 25,000 users within 15 months tied to what is called the Thai Internet Address translation system for people wholly illiterate in English.

If you noticed the mood was a little glum at Pantip Plaza - a new "study" by Business Software Alliance said that Montenegro is the world's top software pirate, with 83 per cent of all programs copied, not bought; meanwhile, BSA "reported" use of illegal PC software dropped an entire two per cent in Thailand in only one year, to a mere 78 per cent piracy rate - not even in the Top Five in Asia, and now just 32nd in the world.

Thai negotiators from the Intellectual Property Department went to Peru to listen to US delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Intellectual Property Expert Group plead for international support for laws against anyone intercepting and using cable and satellite transmission; deputy director-general Wiboonlasna Ruamraksa laughed and said maybe later, because since the content is already copyright, why have another law about it?

The International Intellectual Property Alliance described Thailand harshly as something of a piracy haven for cable and satellite hijackers, with illegal decoding boxes and smart cards freely available, and precisely 1.33 million customers of pirated cable and pay-TV broadcasters. Jareuk Kaljareuk, president of the Federation of National Film Association, explained that tougher piracy laws will help the Thai economy by attracting more film companies, especially for post-production.

Samsung of South Korea announced it will be pushing large-screen, large-format display (LFD) monitors this year, average price 50,000 baht and sized 40 to 82 inches.

True Internet Gateway announced plans to run your CAT Telecom a little competition by building a submarine cable directly to the US, doubling the nation's Internet bandwidth overnight; it's almost finished except for the planning, finding some foreign partners, finding some local partners such as your TOT ... just a couple of details, really. Your CAT Telecom president Phisal Jorpocha-udom actually signed a contract with Marubeni (Thailand) for a two billion baht fibre-optic network; the network is to radiate out from Bangkok with 9,000km of cable; the Office of the Auditor-General says the whole deal is non-transparent and your CAT Telecom doesn't care.

Stung by the growing popularity of VoIP international phone services charging around 1.5 baht per minute, your CAT Telecom cut its own Internet-based overseas rates to 75 satang (about 3) per minute to major countries including the US, UK, China and Singapore, from fixed-line or mobile; like the private competitors, you will need to prepay with cards available at stores or online at

The Department of Livestock Development announced plans for an "e-traceability" project for 8,000 chicken farms; the web-based venture will track birds everywhere, meaning small- and medium-scale farmers will not have to invest in their own technology.

The National Telecommunications Commission assured Thai mobile operators that foreign companies will definitely not be allowed to run third-generation (3G) phone networks without Thai partners; in addition, every foreign firm will be given a deadline to cover 90 per cent of the country within a certain time frame or lose its investment.

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