Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) comes into effect in Thailand after royal endorsement

On 27th May, the Kingdom of Thailand’s first personal data protection law was published in the Government Gazette and made official. This comes three months after the National Legislative Assembly passed the Personal Data Protection Act in late February and submitted the act for royal endorsement.

While the law is now technically in effect

Its main ‘operative provisions’ such as data subjects’ rights to consent and access requests, civil liabilities and penalties, will not come into proper effect until a year after their publishing, i.e. May 2020. This was planned to give data controllers and processors a grace period of one year to prepare for PDPA compliance, the requirements and obligations of which were designed to have demonstrative equivalency with the EU’s international spearheading General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As such, within a year, Thai public bodies, businesses and other organisations will qualify for ‘adequate’ third-party status regarding data protection provisions, allowing market activity and various other transactions involving proportionate data processing between EU member states and Thailand. The GDPR has special restrictions on the transfer of data outside the EEA, but the PDPA may prompt the EU to make a data protection provision adequacy decision regarding Thailand.

 It is uncommon in Thai law for provisions to have an ‘extraterritorial’ purview, but the new PDPA was designed to have this scope to protect Thai data subjects from the risks of data processing, particularly marketing or ‘targeting’ conducted by non-Thai agents offering goods or services in Thailand.

 The PDPA contains many word-for-word translations of the GDPR, including the special category of ‘sensitive personal data’ and Subject Access Requests (SARs). Personal data itself is defined, along GDPR lines, as “information relating to a person which is identifiable, directly or indirectly, excluding the information of a dead person.”

 The European Commission has so far recognised Andorra, Argentina, Canada (commercial organisations), Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, New Zealand, Switzerland, Uruguay and the United States of America (limited to the Privacy Shield framework) and most recently Japan, as third countries providing adequate data protection. Adequacy agreements are currently being sought with South Korea, and with Thailand’s latest measures, it may be that the southeast Asian nation will be brought into the fold.

Irrespective of Brexit

The Data Protection Act passed by Theresa May’s administration last year manifests the GDPR within the UK’s regulatory framework. However, on exit the UK will become a so called third country and will have to seek an adequacy decision.  The ICO will continue to be the UK Supervisory Authority.

 Harry Smithson, 30 May 2019