The Wider Image: Beach life in Phuket
Tourists sit as they wait for their boat at Maiton Island in Phuket, Thailand, on March 18, 2016  Athit Perawongmetha—Reuters

Thailand Plans to Track Foreign Tourists Through Their Cell Phones

Aug 10, 2016

Thailand announced plans Tuesday that would require foreigners visiting the popular Southeast Asian country to have location-tracking SIM cards in their phones so authorities can easily monitor their whereabouts.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary general of the state telecoms regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), defended the move saying it was useful for national security, according to the Bangkok Post.

"It is not to limit tourists' rights," Takorn said. "Instead, it is to locate them, which will help if there are some tourists who overstay or run away [from police]," reports Agence France-Presse.

The SIM cards would include a permanent feature that would allow mobile operators to locate users at anytime. But little details have emerged as to when and how the tracking system would be implemented. The NBTC said it would consult with police and tourism authorities before deciding whether to go ahead with the plan.

The Thai military, which seized power in a coup in 2014, has vowed to get tough on foreigners who commit crimes or over stay their visas. In April, the Immigration Bureau introduced elaborate immigration forms that required visitors and foreign workers to stipulate sensitive information, including banking details and social-media sites used.

Since last year, all foreigners in Thailand have had to present their passports before buying SIM cards. Despite a political crisis and a flagging economy, 32 million people are expected to flock to the country's beaches and temples this year.

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