The Ministry of Defence has denied requesting mobile phone location data from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to monitor the Covid-19 outbreak in Thailand.
Defence Ministry spokesman, Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich, said the ministry has no authority to demand private mobile phone information, shutting down reports that the ministry had asked mobile network operations to send in their customers' location data to assist with efforts to curb the spread of the disease.
However, the director of the Policy and Planning Office under the Ministry of Defence, Gen Raksak Rojphimphun, said instead that the NBTC and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society have been nominated to supervise the tracking of mobile phone users' movements. He also said his office has met with all five mobile network operators to discuss the possibility of using users' mobile phone data for disease-control purposes.
His comment came after independent academic Sarinee Achavanuntakul published a document from the defence policy and planning office, asking the NBTC to provide the mobile phone location data of newly confirmed Covid-19 patients over the last 14 days. According to Ms Sarinee's Facebook post, the office also asked for the mobile phone numbers of everyone near them.
Gen Raksak justified the need to track mobile phone users by citing the cluster of infections at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. "If we had the mobile phone information of all 2,800 people at the stadium, we would have been able to send a text to warn them immediately," he said.
Addressing human rights concerns over location tracking, Gen Raksak said no data has been harvested as the programme is still in development.