Thailand to require biometric checks for pre-paid SIM cards in troubled south

Thai men use their mobile phones in Bangkok.
Thai men use their mobile phones in Bangkok.PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's telecoms regulator said on Thursday (May 25) anyone wanting to use or buy a pre-paid SIM card for a mobile phone in the deep south will have to have their fingerprints verified and face scanned to stop insurgents from using them to trigger bombs.

A decades-old separatist insurgency in the largely ethnic Malay Muslim provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat has killed more than 6,500 people since 2004, according to independent monitoring group Deep South Watch.

Attacks in the region near the border with Muslim-majority Malaysia, have intensified this year. The latest bomb, outside a supermarket in Pattani town, wounded 60 people this month.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications, told Reuters people can start registering their pre-paid SIM cards next Wednesday.

During registration, fingerprints will be matched against the data stored on identification cards, he said.

SIM cards for post-paid accounts are already registered on purchase.

Pramote Prom-in, a spokesman for government security forces in the region, told Reuters fingerprinting would make it more difficult for insurgents to buy pre-paid SIM cards and could help authorities identify bombers. "It can help prevent using mobile phones to trigger bombs, and with registration we can track attackers," Pramote told Reuters.

But insurgents had recently turned to buying mobile phones and SIM cards from Malaysia to avoid authorities, Pramote said.