Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is planning to set up a standard registration platform for pre-paid mobile SIM cards across Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, the Bangkok Post reports, aimed at creating a single customer data pool among the four countries to help prevent fraud, drug trading, illegal trafficking and the usage of mobile phones in detonating bombs. The NBTC signed an agreement with Cambodia on the registration scheme last year, followed by Laos in February of this year, whilst it will ‘have talks on such a collaboration with Myanmar soon,’ NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith was quoted as saying. The proposed pre-paid registration standard is based on usage of national identification and fingerprints to register pre-paid SIMs via a mobile subscription app to be developed by the commission. Mr Takorn said the NBTC would fund the software development, with the other three countries investing in the hardware themselves. He added the claim that Thailand could successfully drive development of a pre-paid SIM registration system within 18 months through its own mobile app.
Bounsaleumsay Khennavong, permanent secretary of Laos’ telecoms ministry, was quoted as saying that around 40% of the country’s mobile SIM users remain unregistered. Officially, existing mobile users in Laos were given ‘until April 2012’ to register their details or face disconnection, and since that date all new mobile customers have been required to register in order to take up a service, TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes. In practice, however, the programme has evidently not been effectively implemented to date, and Mr Bounsaleumsay acknowledged that the registration information is spotty and unreliable because the existing system in Laos is inefficient, and added: ‘The collaboration with the Thai telecom regulator is expected to speed up the development of Laos’ mobile registration system to be complete by the end of 2017.’
Similarly, in Cambodia, GlobalComms says that, under 2012 legislation, a ruling was issued in September 2015 for pre-paid subscribers to register their details ‘by the end of the year’ or face disconnection – with up to 70% of users unregistered at the date of the ruling, largely due to retailers illegally flouting the registration policy. The ‘deadline’ passed, however, and the process remains ongoing.