Thailand plans to track non-citizens with their mobile phones

If you're headed there on holiday, it's time to sort out cheap global roaming

Thailand is considering a proposal to track the location of all SIM cards acquired by foreigners, be they tourists or resident aliens.

The plan's been floated as a way to assist law enforcement agencies combat trans-national crime. Thailand borders Cambodia, Laos and Burma, three nations that have reasonably porous borders, seldom score well on measures of incorruptibility or governance and have form as participants in heroin supply chains.

Thailand's military-led government is very keen to maintain calm in the Kingdom and is also very nationalist, so making life a little hard for foreigners is true to form and will not irritate many of its supporters.

The nation's tourism operators may beg to differ: about 20 million people visit the nation each year.

If you're one of them, the plan's not in action yet but has been agreed in principle. It's hoped the scheme will be up and running in about six months, by which time you'll only be able to buy trackable SIMs when you visit.

The good news is that if your phone roams, you'll be exempt. And with roaming plans now catering to travellers there's a good chance you can bring your phone to Phuket without taking a bath on roaming charges.

Resident aliens will be moved to the trackable SIMs. Many such folk move to Thailand to invest or bring expertise to the nation and are unlikely to be happy that their every move is observed. One small upside is that the nation's telecoms regulators aren't entirely sure how to make the tracking work, with cell connection data and GPS both under consideration. ®

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