Attitude adjusted?: “It was more like to make me go crazy,”. Teenagers accused of being “hackers” and their seven-day experience in a military camp

 

16 December 2016, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed the amendment of Computer Crimes Act bill. There was a widespread opposition online. Numbers of internet users were upset by the decision. To express their disagreement, some activities were held to hit back many government websites. It was led by a Facebook page called “OpSingleGateway”      
 
Later on many official websites such as Royal Thai Police database, Thai Traffic Police, Royal Military Finance Department, Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, and many others were attacked and could not be accessed. The incident was considered as “a national security” matter. The police worked all thier best to arrest those who were responsible. So that others would not dare to do the same.          
 
Shortly after, on 19 December 2016, the first suspect was arrested. He was a vocational student , majored in computer science. He was 19 at the time he got arrested. So we would call him as “Nut”.     
 
 
The first arrest – police dressed up as a pizza boy   
 
“Nut” told that about 4 pm – 5 pm on the day of the arrest, someone on a motorcycle with a pizza box in the front basket arrived at his house. They asked loudly to pick up a delivery. When Nut opened the gate, “the pizza boy” asked his name. He saw other people getting out of their cars parked nearby. They just climbed over the fence.      
 
“Nut” said he was so shocked at that time, ran back to the house, and locked the door. He saw about 6 or 7 people ran after him to the house, and there were some army personnel. The policeman who dressed as a pizza boy was preparing to break into. “Nut” just had to open the door. When the door was open about 20 people stormed into the house. They closed windows and curtains, and checked around the house.       
 
One officer went straight to the computer that was still on. The officer plugged in a flash drive and ordered “Nut” to surrender all flash drives and other devices. Army personnel checked on the restroom and drew the layout of the house. In an hour “Nut” was in handcuff and was taken to Technology Crime Suspension Division (TCSD)   
 
“Nut” said since the officials came they only asked whether he knew what he had done. They did not state why they were there to search or why they arrested, and they did not show a search warrant.  
  
 
The police kept questioning over and over all night long. A sleepless night. 
 
Upon arriving at TCSD, Chaeng Watthana Government Center, the officers took “Nut” to a room that seemed like a conference room. When “Nut”’s mother arrived the officers set up a vedio camera and started questioning. They asked what and when he had done, who he had done with, who he asked to do with. “Nut” said he told the police what he only knew. He did not do it with other people as a group, so he could not answer about other people being involved. 
 
“Nut” said while being questioned he felt really scared of the situation. The police placed a MacBook in front of him. The police made him go to different Facebook groups on his Facebook account. Though “Nut” said he had never given the password to anyone.  
  
As far as “Nut” could remember during that night more police asked him the same questions about 7 or 8 times. “Nut” and his mother did not get any sleep until the morning. The following day the police did not do anything. They let “Nut” sit around with his mother all day. He overheard that another suspect was arrested. On the second night “Nut” could sleep on a sofa in one officer’s office. “Nut” said every time during being questioned by the police, the army personnel would guard the area. They would follow “Nut” to the restroom too.   
 
 
Sack over head and being taken to an army camp for more questioning
  
In the afternoon of 21 December, “Nut” was taken from TCSD. The police escorted him via the lift located at the back of the building and to a van. About 3 or 4 policemen were in the van. When “Nut” saw a road sign that he thought it said Dusit District, the police put a sack over his head. They turned to somewhere. When the police got out of the van, there was metal hit sound as if it came from military combat boots.  
 
“Nut” was still covered when taken out of the van. The personnel held his arms and took him inside of a building until they arrived at a room. They took off the sack, and they let him in the room. “Nut” recalled that the room wall was pitch black mirror. Camo net was over the mirror. There was a table in the middle of the room. Three people were already sitting there. There was a chair for “Nut” on the opposite side of the table. There was another chair for an army personnel sitting and guarding the door.       
 
“As soon as the police dropped me off, they said goodbye (to the military personnel). Officers sitting in the room were in plainclothes. One wore a black sports t-shirt with white and red stripes. Another wore a white polo shirt. They put the evidence seized from my house on the table. They asked my background such as my chronic condition, what I had done in my whole life, and where I had been. I was in the room for 6 or 7 hours. ” 
 
 
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“Nut” continued his story that in the evening a personnel covered his head again and took him to another room. There was an iron-barred door. There was a chair, and a personnel guarded all the time. Inside there was a bed and a fan in the middle of the room, no air conditioner. On a table in the room, there was a bowl, toiletries and some small snacks. Further at the back was a shower room with an upward sloped ceiling. He thought it was located under stairs.   
 
“I had a shower and slept until the morning. I didn’t eat properly that night. In the morning a personnel brought me a meal. The personnel came with a telephone. Before eating they would tell me to hold up the plate and to smile for a picture every time”. 
 
 
Shared a room with other suspects, but not allowed to talk to each other
 
The next day “Nut” was taken to another room – a larger room. It was more like a banquet room. There were blue curtains and boards that were brought to separate the room into six smaller rooms. A big round table was in the middle of the room. A door at the back led to a toilet. There were more room dividers and three other small rooms at the back. 
 
“Nut” said when arriving, he had to sit at the round table and was questioned again by three other personnel, who seemed to be computer literate. The interrogation went on for three or four hours. They were the same questions asked over and over again, such as what he had done, who he had known, who was this and that person. Then he was taken to his small room.  
 
The small room was divided by two long boards along the sides and a shorter board at the feet of the bed. A gap was spared for getting in and out. There was a bed, a small table, a small chair for sitting and eating, and a thin blanket. There are the same clothes for everyone. The small board at the feet had a sign on, read “To be released on 26th”. Each one has different sign on their rooms.    
 
 
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“I got here before anyone else. Then eight other people arrived one by one. Everyone would be questioned at the round table first before being sent to their room.”
 
“Nut” said while they were there no one was allowed to talk to each other. They had no information from outside and had lost track of time. When they wanted to go to the toilet, they had to ask and the army personnel would escort them all the time. 
 
Within 4 nights of “Nut” being detained here, the police came back to talk to him twice in his small room. The police went to talk to other people in their room too. They did not spend too much time with each one. Other than this they just lied on the bed in this so cold air conditioned room with lights on 24 hours. They had nothing to do and had no television. “Nut” asked for cigarettes and the personnel gave him, but “Nut” was not allowed to smoke outside.  
 
“I thought the order came from high level. As a matter fact every army staff guarding me wasn’t mean. I felt they were friendly. But the ones who wanted to be cruel to me or to control me must have been the high-up.”
 
 
“They didn’t get anything else from me.”
 
When asked about how he felt while being treated under this special circumstance, “Nut” said his feelings were how he ended up here and what he was doing here. He felt he was under pressure, because many people asked the same questions over and over. He wanted to say something back, but was afraid to do.  
 
When asked only the same questions, but his answers were no different from what he told on the first day at TCSD. Because there was nothing more he could answer. The personnel still insisted him to think harder. But it was impossible. No one could have thought of anything else.     
 
“While I was in the army camp I thought they didn’t get anything else from me. They just wanted to detain me so that I couldn’t do more movement. They just watched. But while I was detained, there was cyber-attack constantly. So it proved that I didn’t do anything like that.”
 
 
Another victim with a similar story
 
On 24 December 2016, the police arrested another suspect who they believed to be a hacker launching the cyber-attack against the government websites. We would call him here was “Jew”, who was a Non-Formal and Informal Education (NFE) student. He was 20 years old when arrested.
  
“Jew” told that about 6 AM while he was doing some housework, he saw vans with Cyber Police sign on parked. More than 10 personnel of each police and army in uniform came to his house. They informed that “Jew” was the one who attacked the government websites, which considered as a breach of national security. The authority claimed that this search and arrest was carried out by the jurisdiction of the Section 44. They asked for the computer and sized it.     
 
“At the time I heard that many people have already been arrested. They took me to TCSD. They wanted me to write down the websites I attacked and to implicate other people. I was detained at TCSD until noon. Then I was taken to 11th Military Circle and was detained there for 7 days.”
 
“They didn’t let us do anything, just slept there. Just eating and sleeping. I met others and knew where they slept. But they didn’t let us talk to each other. Personnel were watching at every corner.”
 
“Jew” mentioned that while being detained they were visited at the beds for questioning many times. The police asked about himself. But the army personnel asked to implicate others. The army also asked for Anti Single Gateway Group, which he knew no members of the Group. They questioned every other days. Each time took only about half an hour. Same questions were asked repeatedly.   
 
“I once went under the board partition to talked to a friend. I didn’t get a punishment. But the army guarding me had some exercise as a punishment there. I saw them doing up and down.”
 
“Jew” did not know what charges would be pressed against him while being detained. He was too afraid to ask and did not want to trouble. He knew the charges when he was taken back to TCSD for the second time.
 
“The atmosphere there was as if they stayed calm in order to pressure me. I could not do anything, and that made me seriously worried because they didn’t talk to me. I was like being a sicko. The living condition there was fine, but the situation was just so tense. It was more like to make me go crazy. ”
 
After the army detained “Jew” for seven days, they brought him back to TCSD again for singing some documents. “Jew” told that each other “unfortunates”, detained at the 11th Military Circle, were taken to the Criminal Court separately. When “Jew” arrived at the basement detemtion room of the Court, he met two other friends, who had been there before him. Both were charged with the same case. The two were released on bail on that day. But “Jew”’s relatives failed to bail him out on time. Then it was a long New Year holiday. As a result “Jew” stayed in jail for seven days.    
 
 
At first the prosecutor filed charges against “Nat” for attacking at least 22 official websites, and changing images of many web pages. There were other charges included being a member of a secret society, official document forgery, drug possession, arms procession, and others. All were 45 counts. The prosecutor also filed against “Jew” and two other associates for another case for the same charges. Later the judge ordered to combine the four suspects’ cases to be one case. Five other suspects who were taken to the 11th Military Circle were set free with no charges. Click here for more information.    
 
Everyone denied the charges and would defend their case before the judge. The case was still on until witness examination day. The prosecutor would examine 40 witnesses.   
 
 
 
 
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