The Internet Society has sent a letter to its 600 members in Thailand urging them to uphold the organization's "guiding principles" that oppose government restriction of the Internet.
Signed by chief executive Don Heath, vice president of chapters Vinton Cerf, and executive director Martin Burack, the letter calls for members to "reject any part of the [proposed Thai regulations] that would compromise the Internet as a neutral medium of communications." (Cerf, well known in the Net community, also is a senior vice president at MCI.)
The letter was released in response to allegations by the Bangkok Post and Thai legal scholars that the Internet Society's Thailand chapter founder and chairman, Dr. Srisakdi Charmonman, played a central role in embedding harsh restrictions and penalties into the proposed Internet Promotion Act.
Previous drafts of the act included articles aimed at centralizing control of the Internet to a government committee, and would require ISPs and content providers to obtain government licenses. A final draft is expected be submitted to the government for approval later this year.
"He doesn?t speak for us," Burack said of Srisakdi. "Nevertheless, it will be interpreted that we're behind him. I can speak with equivocation that the Internet Society is not behind the law, but stands firmly for its [own] guiding principles and expects every chapter to do the same."
Srisakdi previously had delegated the Internet Society's Thai chapter to become the "facilitator" of the drafting process, but it was unclear what that meant. According to Burack, it only meant that the group would provide a facility for the committee to draft the proposal.
But Dave Banisar of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) believes Srisakdi used his ISOC title to legitimize his presence. "He's the guy who wrote the thing," Banisar said.
Srisakdi could not be reached for comment.
The Internet Society is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization involved in standards, policy issues, and educational workshops. The Dulles, Virginia-based organization has 7,000 members from 150 countries.