Thailand's telecommunications regulator has approved plans to track tourists by requiring them to use special SIM cards while travelling in the country. Denying that it would be an invasion of privacy, the SIMs would allow authorities to catch those who are overstaying their visa.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) said that the special SIM cards with come with a tracking device that the user would not be able to disable. However, they did not confirm how they would successfully stop foreigners from getting local Thai citizens to buy unrestricted SIM cards for them.
In addition, authorities would need a court order to track a specific phone. The telecommunications regulator said that this could be used to also find those who are on the run from the police.
NBTC's Secretary General Takorn Tantasith said that they would now be consulting with the police, tourism authorities and tour operators before making a final call on whether or not to implement the tracking scheme. According to the BBC, the plans have already been backed by other parts of Thailand's military government.
Pongsathorn Chansri, an official for the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, said: "It would be helpful if any foreigner comes and commit crimes, because in the past they have been able to flee or it can be difficult to find them."
According to Thailand's Tourism and Sports Ministry, more than 19 million foreigners have visited Thailand in 2016 alone. The UK Foreign Office has said that British nationals make more than one million visits to Thailand every year.
Chansri confirmed that foreigners working in Thailand would not be required to use the special SIM cards, however, some local media reports have quoted him as saying that they would be required to. No further details have been provided on whether the SIM cards would be given to tourists free of charge and what their costs would be, as well as how the tracking technology would work.
Since 2015, tourists in Thailand would have to show their passport before getting a pay-as-you-go SIM card or mobile phone contract.