Single Gateway seems to be one of the hottest topics in Thailand in the past weeks.

Of course most people object to this idea. The junta has given the public wide ranging reasons to support this policy from “filtering information before the citizens consume to avoid spreading of inappropriate content” to “supporting the economic growth,” but did you know that they actually suggest the Single Gateway will actually prevent youth addiction to online games?

Yes, preventing kids from playing games is one of their justifications for the Single Gateway.

I won’t go into much detail on why Single Gateway is singly one of the most concerning policies from this government as many have talked about it already. I won’t even say that the government is shaping Thailand in the image of Laos, China and North Korea, each of which belong to the category of “unfree” countries with a single Internet gateway. There’s a Change.Org petition for that already – not that the government cares.

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There was even a DDoS
attack that crashed government websites as a form of protest by those who know the Internet best just to prove the point. People hate it so much that the government actually politely asks you to stop talking about Single Gateway. Well, they ask us to stop because we are all mistaken, according to them. It will finally be more than one gateway –  all guarded and filtered by the government via CAT Telecom

The point I’m concerned with here is Thailand has been using games as a scapegoat for years.

If a child is aggressive, it’s because games have a bad influence, they say. If a teenager commits suicide, it’s because of a game he or she played, they say. Like movies and TV, games are blamed for sex, violence and other problems that have plagued youth since the beginning of time. Now with this gateway, we are expected to believe the government can miraculously solve these problems? Isn’t that too easy?

There are two ways one can look at the government’s intention. Either the government is truly concerned about game addiction and genuinely convinced a single gateway will solve this problem. OR the government already had a plan for the single gateway and they are using game addiction and other flimsy reasons as excuses to win the support of parents who are desperate to protect their children.

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The first would imply that the government doesn’t understand gaming and think gaming addiction is a problem of control. They think youth are addicted to games because there’s not enough control – control of content, control of distribution, control of consumption. They believe that with enough control, kids won’t get addicted.

We’ve had enough prohibitions against addiction to know better. Addiction is not a problem of control. The problem of addiction is so complex and has so many implications that to think the single gateway policy can solve the problem is naive at best and dangerous at worst, considering it could easily worsen the problem.

The second would be throwing the gaming industry under the bus, where it will be pretty crowded if the policy goes through. The latest reports from Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) and Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) show that the value of the game industry in year 2014 was $7.8 billion THB (US$215 million), with 20 per cent growth predicted each year forward. Newzoo also has an unofficial number showing that this year, the marketing value for Thailand’s game is at US$336 million.

The gaming industry will be one of many casualties that will suffer from the policy. Growth will be choked as both consumption and production falls. While we can still discuss the security virtues of the policy, the economics of the policy are almost entirely negative.

At the danger of boring you, I have to sing the same tune as others before me. If the policy pushes through, the gaming industry will suffer just as all other sectors of the ICT industry will, with perhaps the notable exception of surveillance solution providers.

The government has recently backtracked to the position that they are merely studying the possibility of the single gateway project. So far, overbearing security measures aside, they have not been able to justify the policy in any sense.

Gaming has been misunderstood by many sectors of the society for a long time, and it is our responsibility to make sure that it is not now incorrectly used as a justification for an inexcusable policy.

We’ll be connecting the Mekong region through Bangkok, Thailand come November 26 – 27. Join us in two action-packed days where tech heavyweights from across the region discuss ecosystem hot topics. Learn more about Echelon Thailand 2015 here.