BANGKOK – Thailand’s National Telecom Regulator the (NBTC) has scrapped it’s plan for special SIM cards for tourists that would allow authorities to track their locations and call history.
The special tourist SIM card 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) rejected earlier approved requirement for the foreign visitors to use traceable SIM cards, since it was criticized by both the government and the public, the Bangkok Post reported on Wednesday.
The (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 phone 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 had expected to roll out the special SIM cards in early 2017.
NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasith said the government, especially the Tourism and Sports Ministry, was concerned that introducing the tourist SIM would cause severe damage to the local tourism industry.
Saying that NBTC had stopped all related processes (including public hearings) for the tourist SIM card plan.
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. Saying it might make foreign travellers unhappy or uncomfortable with the way local authorities handle personal information.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry reported that 19.06 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in the first half of 2016, an increase of 12 per cent year-on-year.