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Thailand plans SIM cards to track foreign tourists

Thailand could issue all foreign tourists with location-tracking SIM cards under plans announced on Tuesday by the telecoms regulator, which has denied the project is an invasion of privacy.

Famed for its temples and tropical beaches, the kingdom is a major global tourist hub, with about 32 million visitors expected in 2016 and the industry accounting for around a 10th of the economy.

But a small number of foreigners fall foul of the law and the country’s military rulers, who seized power two years ago, have vowed to crack down on those overstaying on their visas or committing crimes.

The proposal to monitor foreign tourists comes from Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

At a press conference in Bangkok on Tuesday the agency said the location-tracking SIM cards would help authorities.

“It is not to limit tourists’ rights. Instead it is to locate them which will help if there are some tourists who overstay or run away (from police),” Secretary General Takorn Tantasith told reporters.

Takorn did not say if tourists would have to buy the SIM cards or if they would be given to them free of charge. Nor were there details about the plan’s cost or timeframe. (AFP)