At the height of the 2020 protests, the Thai government implemented vigorous online censorship to curb public criticism of the monarchy. In doing so the government cited its obligation to safeguard Thailand’s ‘cyber sovereignty’, which is the focus of this talk. I argue that this concept is constructed as a tool that can be wielded opportunistically to ensure regime security, which largely depends on the security of the throne. Notably, the Thai state’s construction of cyber sovereignty is modeled on territorial sovereignty: it has elements of territorial nationhood, insofar as cyberspace is treated as if it has a physical existence. However, this conceptualisation of cyber sovereignty is flawed: it elides the significant differences between these two forms of sovereignty, particularly regarding sovereign power and its limits. Despite its flawed nature, the Thai case is part of a wider ongoing debate about cyber sovereignty, whereby some countries promote tighter Internet controls while others support a more liberal cyber regime.
About the speaker
Pavin Chachavalpongpun is Associate Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. He is the chief editor of the online journal Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia. His forthcoming book, as editor, is titled Rama X: The Thai Monarchy under King Vajiralongkorn and will be released in the Summer by Yale University.
Join us for a talk on cyber sovereignty and government control of the internet, drawing on Thailand's online censorship during the 2020 protests. Pavin argues that cyber sovereignty is used as a tool for regime security and is flawed in its model of territorial nationhood. This discussion is part of a wider debate on internet control.