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Tourist SIM-tracking plan axed

BANGKOK: Plans for special SIM cards for tourists have finally been scrapped by the national telecom regulator after facing strong opposition from the government, which says the idea would do more harm than good.

technology, tourism,

Bangkok Post

Wednesday 22 February 2017, 08:53AM

A foreign tourist looks at his mobile phone while walking along Silom Road in Bangkok. Photo: Tanaphon Ongarttrakoon
A foreign tourist looks at his mobile phone while walking along Silom Road in Bangkok. Photo: Tanaphon Ongarttrakoon

The plan also drew heavy criticism at the first public hearing from participants who said it could lead to a potential threat to travellers’ privacy.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) initially approved in principle a requirement that foreign visitors to Thailand use special SIM cards in their phones that could be tracked by the authorities in the interest of national security.

The NBTC planned to force all mobile operators to embed location-based service software into their SIM cards to enable them to track the call history of the 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.

The regulator expected to roll out the special SIM cards in early 2017.

The initiative was originated at a regional-level meeting in Phuket in July last year, gathering telecom regulators from the 10 Asean countries. Among the 10, only Malaysia uses special traceable SIM cards for foreign travellers.

“We have stopped all related processes [including public hearings] for the tourist SIM card plan,” said NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasith.

The NBTC earlier prepared to invite embassy representatives and ambassadors from China, the US, Britain and some European countries – all of which provide high tourist traffic to Thailand – to take part in a public hearing on the tourist SIMs.

Mr Takorn said the government, especially the Tourism and Sports Ministry, is concerned that the tourist SIM would cause severe damage to the local tourism industry – a critical component of the country’s economic growth, contributing 17% of the GDP.

The ministry reported that 19.06 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in the first half of 2016, an increase of 12% year-on-year.

An executive at a major mobile company who asked not to be named said the termination of the tourist SIM plan was for the good of the country.

Though the cost of requiring traceable SIM cards would create a small burden to mobile operators, the source said it might make foreign travellers unhappy or uncomfortable with the way local authorities handle personal information.

Read original story here.



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Foot | 22 February 2017 - 23:09:59

Finally, the government makes a decision that won't hurt tourism.
I've also seen that some beach chairs + lounge chairs and umbrellas have returned to Patong and Kamala beaches.  The number 1 thing that can be done to return tourism to it's former glory, is to allow them, along with shops, vendors, beach night clubs, restaurants, and bars.
Now, the government needs to regulate everything and eliminate jet-skis at popular beaches.

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Governmeny Policy | 22 February 2017 - 21:49:08

A better idea would be SIM tracking for bad police and bad government officials as well as all types of mafia they do business with like beach mafia, transport mafia and many but not all bar owners who pay them a monthly protection fee.

Of course no one in the government has the balls to try and put that into legislation.

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Sue Yu2 | 22 February 2017 - 12:27:37

At last - a sensible decision!

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Kurt | 22 February 2017 - 10:03:53

Very good. The interest of thai authorities should be focused on internal ( thai <-> thai) national security, in the North and in the South.
Oh, and don't forget that Dhammakaya sect temple happening.

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