The Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) has stressed the importance of registering mobile phone SIM cards against valid identity cards in the insurgency-plagued deep South, saying it is necessary to help ward off coordinated bomb attacks.
It was reported that Isoc's Region 4 Forward Command, which is in charge of security across the deep South, sent text messages to all mobile phone users in the region late last week, urging them to complete the biometric registration of their SIM cards by Oct 31.
The report has generated a strong backlash from human rights activists and politicians, who consider the move as a human rights violation.
Col Pramote Prom-in, the spokesman of the forward command, said that biometric registration is based on two orders issued by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), published in the Royal Gazette on April 9 and June 21, which concerns the use of mobile phone users' personal information in areas where an emergency has been declared.
The spokesman went on to dismiss claims that biometric registration will involve fingerprint scanning as several reports had claimed, and that only photographs of the SIM card owners will be taken.
Everyone will be required to undergo the process — including soldiers, Col Pramote said.
"This is meant to help us identify the innocents from the instigators, many of whom use other people's ID cards to purchase SIM cards," he said, before adding that the move was not intended to violate human rights principles.
The decision was taken after authorities discovered that mobile phones were used to remotely detonate explosive devices in several recent attacks in the deep South.
"Insurgents sometime buy SIM cards from outside the region, or even the country, to be fitted in the mobile phone detonators," said Col Pramote.
He cited the recent bombing of the landmark mermaid sculpture in Songkhla's Samila Beach late last year, which he said was detonated by a mobile phone that was fitted with an unregistered SIM card that was purchased online.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today said that biometric registration is meant to help identify the owners of SIM cards and prevent anyone from misusing SIM cards owned by others in the insurgency-plagued region.
“This is not a violation of human rights,” Gen Prayut said, before giving assurances that the process "won't be complicated".