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Thailand is considering a plan to issue a special SIM card to foreign tourists that would allow authorities to track their mobile phones. The plans have been approved in principle by National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the country’s telecommunications regulator, which intends to catch those who overstay their visa.
The commission said the plan would apply to tourists only, backtracking on an earlier announcement that it would cover all foreigners, including residents on long-term visas, the Bangkok Post and other media reported.
The commission’s Secretary General, Thakorn Tanthasit, suggested that the plan would not only help catch terrorists and criminals but also help find travellers who were in trouble or had gone missing.
“We are not limiting any rights. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has no authority to check on the location of users,” said Tanthasit. “But if tourists commit wrong, or there is a court warrant, we will then forward the warrant to a mobile phone operator and seek cooperation.”
The commission, however, did not say how the special sim cards would differ from standard ones, which can already be tracked. Nor did it explain how it would overcome logistical hurdles, such as distributing to such huge numbers of people or dealing with visitors who have access to cards registered to Thai nationals.
While the proposal has been approved by the NBTC, Tantasith said the organisation would consult with police, tourism authorities and tour operators before deciding whether to implement it.