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Thailand to Track Tourists' Phones Using Special SIM Cards

In the future, tourists who overstay their visa in Thailand will face trouble, as the Thai government just greenlit a plan to track foreign tourists’ phones via their SIM card.

According to officials at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the SIM cards will only be issued to tourists. An earlier statement had given the impression that all foreigners, including long-term residents, would be monitored, reports Bangkok Post.

The nation’s telecommunications regulator approved the proposal earlier this month, but it might be a while before the plan becomes a reality. Takorn Tantasith, secretary general of NBTC, revealed that the organization will gather feedback from the national police, tourism authorities and tour operators before deciding whether to carry out the plan, according to BBC.

The special SIM cards will mainly be used to catch people who overstay their visa, though Tantasith believes that they will also help the authorities to catch terrorists and criminals, or find missing tourists.

“We are not limiting any rights. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has no authority to check on the location of users,” Tantasith shared with Bangkok Post. “But if tourists commit a wrong, or there is a court warrant, we will then forward the warrant to a mobile phone operator and seek cooperation.”

The plan has met criticism from netizens and human rights advocates who view it as an invasion of privacy.

According to Poomjit Sirawongprasert, president of the Thai Hosting Service Providers Club and a free speech advocate, the proposal is “useless” in the context of catching criminals or terrorists. “The use of roaming [SIM cards] from other countries, or having a Thai citizen buy a card for a foreigner, could evade monitoring,” she told Guardian.

[Photo via Flickr user Luciano Belviso]

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