In the name of national security (what else?), Thailand now plans to issue foreign visitors to the kingdom with special SIM cards that would allow authorities to easily track them.
According to the controversial proposal, all foreign tourists
and expats would be required to use a new style of SIM cards which would allow the authorities to track the card owner’s location at any time.
Yes, Big Brother wants to watch you in Thailand, too!
The government plan to track foreign tourists by SIM card was in principle approved by telecom regulators on Tuesday. Other than initially reported though, the requirement would now apply to all foreign passport holders,
including foreign residents holding long-term visas. The police would however still have to seek a court order to track someone by their SIM card.
The secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said Monday:
We will separate SIM cards for foreigners and Thais. The location will always be turned on in this SIM card for foreigners. And it cannot be turned off.
The NBTC does not seem to be concerned either that the plan to track foreigners by SIM cards could somehow violate their rights or privacy:
We would just facilitate the police. So they could more easily track foreigners who enter the country and commit crimes. The function is not in SIM cards for Thais because we can always easily track them anyway.
Strangely, the NBTC secretary-general justified the controversial proposal by insinuating that other than Thai nationals, foreigners were not required to show their passports when purchasing a SIM card in Thailand – an assumption that is is simply wrong since Thai authorities last year issued a new rule requiring all prepaid SIM card users (including foreign nationals) to have their personal details registered.
The NBTC will now discuss the proposal with mobile phone operators and concerned state agencies, so it still remains to be seen if the controversial plan will eventually be shelved or really put into action?
UPDATE – The secretary-general of the NBTC clarified later on Tuesday in an interview with Post Today that the requirement for foreigners to use special tracking SIM cards would NOT apply to expats and long-term visa holders but exclusively to “tourists” (we guess that means foreign visitors who hold a tourist visa or a visa on arrival or have entered Thailand without a visa under the visa exemption scheme.)