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Thailand pulls plug on unregistered mobiles

Insurgency-busting move

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From mid-November, unregistered mobile phones will not work in Thailand's southernmost three provinces - Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala - as the government pulls the plug as part of its ongoing war against insurgents in the region.

Deputy prime minister Chidchai Vanasathidya told AFP: "Starting November 15, no matter if you're travelling from Bangkok or Malaysia, you must have registered your number ... in order to be able to use your mobile in the three provinces. Otherwise your signal will be cut."

The aim is to stop mobile-phone-triggered bombings in the affected provinces. Since January 2004, 970 people have died in increasing unrest in the majority-Muslim region.

Chidchai continued: "We wanted the three southern provinces to be a special zone, and for the sake of public safety, in summary we must know all telephone numbers in the area. This measure will help prevent militants using mobile phones to trigger the bombs."

Thailand's prepay phone users are already obliged to register with the authorities, although just eight million of the 21.5 million handsets are currently accounted for.

Chidai explained that screening "gateway" technology would be rolled out in the three provinces by the 15 November deadline. Roaming services from other countries, notably Malaysia with which Thailand shares its southern border, would also face the chop, Chidai noted. ®

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