Lonely Planet Writer

Tourists face location-tracking SIM cards under new Thailand entry plan

Tourists visiting Thailand in future face being issued with location-tracking SIM cards.

Tourists to Thailand will have to use special SIM cards for the duration of their visit. Image by DeclanTM / CC BY 2.0
Tourists to Thailand will have to use special SIM cards for the duration of their visit. Image by DeclanTM / CC BY 2.0 Image by DeclanTM / CC BY 2.0

The authorities claim the move is aimed at foreigners who commit crime or overstay their visa length.

Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha,Grand palace at twilight in Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand’s temples is part of the reason 32 million people are attracted there each year  Image by Getty Images

They also said the announcement this week of the location-tracking SIM cards by the telecoms regulator is not an invasion of privacy. According to news.asiaone.com, tourism accounts for one-tenth of the country’s entire economy.

No Thai visa needed for Chinese and Taiwanese tourists. Image by J Aaron Farr / CC BY 2.0
Thai authorities are to crackdown on tourists who overstay their visa time limits. Image by J Aaron Farr / CC BY 2.0 Image by J Aaron Farr / CC BY 2.0

This year over 32 million visitors are expected to enter Thailand’s borders, making it one of the world’s major touriss hubs.

The country’s tropical beaches and historic temples make it a draw across the different age groups. The rulers, who seized power two years ago, are focusing on a small percentage of visitors who create trouble while on holiday.

The country’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) propose to monitor all foreigners, claiming the SIM cards would be helpful to the rulers.

Secretary-General, Takorn Tantasith, stressed the measure was not to limit the rights of visitors but to locate them if they broke the law.

It is still not clear if tourists will have to purchase the location-tracking SIM cards or if they would be issued by authorities free of charge.

Mr Takorn did not elaborate on how the tracking technology would operate.

He indicated after the news conference that the NBTC would work with tourist and police authorities to get their advice before pressing on with the proposal.

The strategy of location tracking SIM cards has been supported by Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

Ministry official, Pongsathorn Chansri, said that up to now it was difficult to trace those who had committed crimes.

International workers in the country won’t need to have a SIM card because they are already registered with authorities.