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The arrest of a Chinese national in Phuket last Saturday for providing a Thai SIM card to a suspect in a botched gun heist in Bangkok has left the Phuket Police chief floundering about what to do with tour operators handing out Thai SIM cards to tourists.
Col Teeraphol Thipjaroen, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Police, admitted to The Phuket News this week that he had no authority to force operators to have tourists register their SIM cards – despite the mandatory requirement for all users to register their SIM cards with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC).
The Thai Cabinet last year made the registration of prepaid Thai SIM cards a legal requirement, citing national security concerns.
In particular, in order to register a Thai prepaid SIM card the actual user must present him or herself at an official mobile phone company branch in person, and requires a photo of the SIM user’s face and presentation of his or her passport.
The issue reared its ugly head after the arrest of Chinese national Su Su, 29, in Pa Khlok on Saturday (Mar 5).
“Mr Su openly told police that he bought about 100 SIM cards at a time using only his passport for identification, and then distributed those SIM cards to tour companies to hand out to tourists,” Col Teeraphol said.
“I know there are many people in Phuket who provide SIM cards to tour companies like this, but we never know what SIM cards – and hence mobile phone numbers – any of these tourists are using.
“And there’s nothing police can do about this,” a flummoxed Col Teerapol said. “I cannot ban these SIM dealers from buying the cards and I cannot prevent the mobile phone companies from selling them. This is up to the NBTC to enforce.”
Ironically, Mr Su has since been blacklisted by the Immigration Bureau, which operates as part of the Royal Thai Police, and has been deported to China on the grounds of jeopardising national security.
Col Teeraphol told The Phuket News that while he was powerless to address the issue, he had faith authorities in Bangkok would see the danger the situation presented and take necessary action.
“The Royal Thai Government will figure out this issue,” he said.