Opposition parties accuse the government of alleged Pegasus attacks

Opposition parties, including Pheu Thai Party and Move Forward Party, have accused the government this week of being behind the latest wave of cyber-attacks targeting activists and critics.

On Wednesday, Apple sent out alert messages to at least 20 critics of the government, including an academic, a musician, and a prominent politician. 

But representatives of the government said that there is no evidence to back their allegations.

“The Pheu Thai Party completely disagrees with actions that violate people’s rights which is extremely dangerous,” says Chonlanan Srikaew, the leader of the main opposition party.  “And we urge the government to stop with such actions and show responsibility to what has happened.”

Apple said that they were “being targeted by state-sponsored attackers” and that the perpetrators were trying to remotely compromise their devices. Most of those who received the alerts were either involved with the latest pro-democracy movement, or critics of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha’s administration.

Some of those targeted include, protest leader, Elia Fofi, Anon Nampa from the Ratsadon, and musician Dechathorn “Hock” Bamrungmuan from Rap Against Dictatorship. The cyberattack also targeted prominent academic Prajak Kongkirati, along with activist Yingcheep Atchanont from the legal monitor group, iLaw. 

Apple said in a statement on Tuesday that they have filed a lawsuit against NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli technology firm primarily known for its spyware, Pegasus. They said they will attempt to hold it accountable for the surveillance of Apple’s users with NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

Chonlanan also said the warning messages from Apple clearly state that the attack was “state-sponsored,” and most of the victims have disagreed with the government in some way. Although he noted that Prayut’s government must be held responsible, he did not show evidence to support his claim that the Thai state was directly involved. 

Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat, an MP from Move Forward Party, also accused the current government of being behind the attacks. He pointed towards Apple’s lawsuit against NSO as evidence that his claim was not unfounded. 

He said Prayut and his administration must clarify whether or not the government was involved with the attacks. 

Nattacha questioned if the military’s secret budget was used to fund such attacks. And he also asked Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, whether the government will be able to prevent similar attacks in the future. 

However, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, denied that the government was involved with attacks. 

“We insist this is untrue, the government respects individual liberties,” he said on Thursday.

“If Pheu Thai claims they have received the notification email from Apple, then they should show evidence so that procedures can be followed, not just make an announcement to attack the government,” Thanakorn added. 

He went on to say that the opposition parties have no evidence to indicate that the state was responsible for any of the alleged cyber-attacks, and encouraged people with evidence to file complaints.

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