While acknowledging the use of the tracking software in relation to cases involving drugs or national security, Chaiwut did not disclose specifics around which individuals were targeted or which software or government agencies were involved, only stating he is aware of its use in “limited” cases.
“It is used on national security or drug matters. If you need to arrest a drug dealer you have to listen in to find where the drop would be,” he said.
“I understand that there was usage of this sort but it is very limited and only in special cases.”
Chaiwaut’s ministry previously denied any knowledge of the matter and Thai police have declared in a statement that Pegasus has not been used as it would breach privacy rules.
Chaiwaut’s comments came after a collective report from Human Rights groups that claimed dozens of Thai democracy activists were targeted by the controversial Israeli spyware known as Pegasus during the height of intense anti-government protests.
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.between October 2020 to November 2021.
“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 NSO Group is currently being sued in the US by Apple, which alleges the firm’s spyware was used to infiltrate a number of iPhones worldwide.
- Additional reporting by AFP