11 July 2024

Starting October 31st, mobile phone users in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat and the districts of Na Thawee, Jana, Tepa and Sabayoi of Songkhla, who do not have their SIM cards registered and their faces scanned for identification, will not be able to use mobile services.

Colonel Pramote Prom-in, spokesman of the 4th region forward command of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), said that the new identification measure, via face scanning biometrics technology, was announced in the Royal Gazette on April 9th and June 21st and would come into force after October 31st this year.

Those who want to visit the three provinces, and four districts of Songkhla starting November 1st, will also be required to register their SIM cards with their service providers, otherwise their phones will be useless.

He said the new measure was necessary to prevent the theft of individuals’ identification for wrongful use in financial transactions or the use of imported or unregistered SIM cards in mobile phones to detonate explosive devices, citing the explosion at the mermaid statue on Samila beach in Songkhla on December 26th last year.

He disclosed that investigators discovered the SIM card used in the blast was traced to a religious school teacher in Yarang district, who allegedly bought 10 SIM cards online from Malaysia and gave them to her husband for use in detonating bombs.

The measure is applied equally to both civilians and officials and they can now register their SIM cards with either of the three service providers and, at the same time, have their faces scanned for recognition and identification.

However, the new measure has come under heavy criticism from human rights advocacy groups and some academics as an intrusion into the privacy of people in the restive South, with some suggesting that consent must be sought from the phone users before their facial image is scanned.