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Plan to track tourists via SIM cards teeters

BANGKOK: The national telecom regulator says it may have to abandon a plan to force foreign visitors to use special SIM cards that can be tracked by authorities if strong opposition is registered at the first public hearing on the issue.

tourism, technology, military, police,

Bangkok Post

Friday 30 September 2016, 09:06AM

A tourist checks his phone on Silom Road, probably unaware that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) wants to issue him a special SIM card so he can be closely tracked and monitored. Photo: Bangkok Post / Tanaphon Ongarttragoon
A tourist checks his phone on Silom Road, probably unaware that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) wants to issue him a special SIM card so he can be closely tracked and monitored. Photo: Bangkok Post / Tanaphon Ongarttragoon

The first public hearing on the tourist SIM plan is scheduled for next month.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has approved in principle a requirement that foreign visitors to Thailand use special SIM cards in their phones that can be tracked by the authorities.

The resolution was said to have been drawn up in the interests of national security.

“If the plan is widely opposed and draws heavy criticism from participants at the first hearing or leads to a potential threat to travellers' privacy, we might scrap it completely,” NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith told the Bangkok Post.

Embassy representatives as well as ambassadors from China, the US, Britain and some European countries – all of which provide high tourist traffic to Thailand – will be invited to participate at the hearing, he said.

The regulator will also raise the tourist SIM plan on its website and other popular social networking sites, including, to generate more feedback.

The tourist SIM initiative was originated at a regional-level meeting in Phuket in July, which gathered telecom regulators from the 10 Asean countries.

Among the 10, Malaysia is the only one using special traceable SIM cards for foreign travellers.

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Earlier, the NBTC announced plans to embed location-based service software into SIM cards to make it easier to track a user in the event he or she became a criminal suspect.

Operators would be required to sell the special SIM cards to foreign travellers wanting to use local mobile services. All mobile operators are expected to roll out the special SIM cards by early 2017.

Mr Takorn said the NBTC will hold several discussions with mobile operators and state agencies before the first hearing takes place.

But a telecom industry source said the plan is also being reconsidered due to the impact it could have on tourism, which is viewed as an important engine of the country’s economic growth.

From January to July of this year, 19.1 million foreign tourists visited Thailand, an increase of 12 per cent year-on-year, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

Earlier, intense criticism of the plan was posted by foreigners on social media. Many said they would opt to use international mobile roaming services rather than buy a special SIM card in order to protect their privacy.


Read original story here.



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swerv | 05 October 2016 - 09:50:41

Kurt/Christy: Why do you go to immigration? I never go.
I use an agent, for 500thb i don't have to do anything.
No photo, no form, no queue plus i get my visa back same day.
The agent also does my 90 day reporting...easy.

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Kurt | 04 October 2016 - 14:44:24

Christy Sweet, yes, a new extra paper for prolongation of your visa.
For singles, your photo with the house/apt number in front of your place
For marriage visa extension the same + a cozy photo of the couple inside the house on the sofa.
Visa extension now can take 2 days.
Today you apply, and tomorrow come back to collect your passport.
And when you are lucky the 2nd day can do that re-entry visa as well.
Beside you have to bring pass photo's for TM7 and TM8 forms they also now take themselves your photo ( like at airports)

So, visa renewing now takes 2 days, with bad luck, 3!

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Christy Sweet | 02 October 2016 - 08:41:35

Good question Kurt, where does the forest of paper go? Oh yeah, it's recycled with your personal details now available for all to see. 

 What's this about a pic required in front of the residence? Is this a new rule or an old one now in play for HIM (Harassment Intensity Maximum)? A good example of HIM  is the PI form-if it's now just five questions, then  amend the forms and put them out so people don't have to stand in a line for 15 minutes just to get a form. 

What's apparent from the constant news of foreign criminals being found in Thailand is law abiding expats are the ones increasingly targeted, while crooks and scammers just ignore all the flaming hoops and pay to get in. 

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Kurt | 01 October 2016 - 10:48:52

Yes, the 'Registration for Owner of Residence form' has been limited to just 5 questions. Two addresses only of yourself ( local + foreign) , next kind in home country and of a local friend. 
I can live with that. I filled out my Consulate.

Funny thing is, you have to hand it in with a 90 day report, and 10 minutes later at next desk when you apply for 'Registration for owner of Residence form', ( you need that for prolongation of your visa),  they want that 'Foreign National info form' again!
All double work only. In just 10 minutes time. For what?

Immigration office is a real paper mill.
Where they stock all the produced papers, day in day out?

New to me was that you must produce a photo of yourself, standing in front of your residence with visible the house/apt number. Very funny.

Actually it strikes me why Immigration not want proof of your health & sickness insurance.
They skipped that many years go.

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Christy Sweet | 01 October 2016 - 08:53:46

Will this go the way of the "personal Info " form?  My last trip  to the immigration office to pick up this form (in order to mail it in  for a 90 day check) had me waiting 15 minutes to just get it because it was not available at the form desk. Now the foreign volunteer has to cross out the sections not needed anymore- like where I hang out (The Villian Mart). So it's a hassle one way and a bigger hassle another way. 

The Personal Info form  and this SIM tracker idea are  all about hassling and making sure " aliens" know who's boss and make sure they  understand it. Meanwhile it's Good Guys In- Bad Guys Just Pay More.....

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Kurt | 30 September 2016 - 13:20:05

Well, this traceable SIM card plan was announced before thinking about it.
It will die/fade away.
Without knowledge/understanding how foreign tourist feel about.
First understand your incoming tourist guests thinking, before you come up with funny ideas to make them feel uncomfortable.
And, oh, In Malaysia no incoming tourist so far has been obligated to buy a traceable SIM phone card.

Foreign tourist rather stick to their own foreign Sim card than getting themselves in a creepy not understandable thai surveillance situation.
That is not their way of holiday thinking.

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