Dozens of Thai democracy activists were targeted by the controversial Israeli spyware known as Pegasus during the height of intense anti-government protests, according to an international digital rights group report.
Massive demonstrations engulfed Thailand’s capital Bangkok two years ago as thousands called for greater civil freedoms, as well as a loosening of the strict lese-majeste laws that prevent any criticism of the monarchy.
The report by Canadian cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab in partnership with Thai groups iLaw and DigitalReach, identified some 30 activists, academics, lawyers and NGO workers — mostly connected to civil rights organisations — whose mobile devices were affected.
“The infections occurred from October 2020 to November 2021, coinciding with a period of widespread pro-democracy protests, and predominantly targeted key figures in the pro-democracy movement,” the report stated.
Pegasus software, created by Israeli firm NSO Group, can extract data and activate cameras or microphones once it has successfully infiltrated a mobile device.
The report stops short of saying definitively who was behind the use of the spyware, though it notes that NSO Group says they only sell the technology to governments.
In its own executive summary of the findings the Thai NGO iLaw said: “It can be circumstantially concluded that the use of Pegasus against dissidents would be of significant benefit to the Thai government.”
Among those targeted, Citizen Lab said, were the lese majeste lawyer Arnon Nampa, protest leader Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa.