Thailand has always been a favourite holiday destination for Malaysians, but it might all change with this new regulation.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) proposed a plan today (Tuesday, 9th August) to use SIM cards to track all movements of foreigners – not just tourists – in a bid to increase national security.
The plan, which was originally proposed by the national telecom regulator last week, will be enforced on anyone who doesn’t hold a Thai passport, including “resident aliens” who owns long term employment, marriage, or retirement visas.
The secretary-general of NBTC, Takorn Tantasith, said that the matter would be brought forward to mobile phone operators, Customs Department, and other related state agencies for discussions. They will also preset certain features on the SIM cards to ensure that the tracking function will not be able to be turned off.
“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,” explained Tantasith while claiming that he learnt of the plan from telecommunication officials of Malaysia and Singapore. However, while tourists and foreigners in the aforementioned countries are obliged to register their SIM cards under valid identification, no tracking systems are implemented.
Foreigners would still be able to bring in their local SIM cards that are on roaming plans, but a location-tracking SIM card will be presented to those who want to purchase a Thai SIM card. When questioned if it was invading the privacy of those affected, Tantasith said that he was “unconcerned”, as it is “like a foreigner writing in the address of their residences in immigration documents”.
He continued, “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 card for Thais because we can always easily track them.”
The plan is expected to come into effect in around 6 months’ time, but the secretary-general continues to assuage fear by informing foreigners that a court order would be needed to track someone by their SIM card. If anyone abuses the system, a severe penalty would be imposed.