Most Urgent no. NR 5100/492
Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC),
Suan Ruen Ruedi, Dusit Bangkok 10300
17 July 2020
Subject Response to a complaint about hassle among mobile phone users in the Southern Border Provinces (SBPs)
Dear Director of Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
With reference to the letter of the Permanent Secretary of the Office of Prime Minister no. NR 0105.04/41519, dated 28 May 2020
In pursuance to the request from the Office of Prime Minister for ISOC to address problems among mobile phone users in the Southern Border Provinces (SBPs) as explained in the letter by the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) which had been submitted to the Prime Minister via the Public Service 1111 regarding public grievance. It has been asked that an effort be made to address the disconnection of phone services among people in the Southern Border Provinces (SBPs) as the users have failed to register their SIM cards via Face ID. It has been alleged that such denial of phone services is unlawful and appears to be discriminatory and could be construed as human rights violation. Therefore, it was demanded that such disconnection of phone services be suspended immediately, particularly during the surge of the Covid-19 pandemic.
ISOC would like to explain that measures to reorganize the provision of mobile phone services in the SBPs have been implemented invoking the security law and the Notifications of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) with the following detail.
1. The legal issues: The Notifications issued by ISOC Region 4 Forward Command are meant to be effective in the area imposed by the security law and the Notification of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) with detail as follows;
1.1 Article 9 of the Regulation issued pursuant to Section 11 of the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency 2005 requires that for any purchase, sale, use or possession of weapons, merchandise, consumer goods, chemicals, or any device which could be used to perpetrate an insurgency or an act of terrorism, such information has to be reported to or prior permission has to be obtained from competent officials or they have to be subject to the terms imposed by the Prime Minister.
1.2 Article 6 of the Regulation issued pursuant to Section 18 of the Internal Security Act 2008 requires an individual to act or to refrain from acting in whatever way concerning electronic tools or equipment in order to prevent grave danger to life, body or property of the public. In so doing, the ISOC Director may impose the timeframe during which compliance to the Regulation or other terms imposed by competent officials has to be made or as deemed fit by the officials. This is to ensure that such measures may not cause trouble for the public unnecessarily and disproportionately.
1.3 The Notification of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) regarding the registration and the collection of mobile phone users which requires that such users to register and undergo a Face ID procedure is meant to be useful for mobile phone users themselves in the future. This can help to prevent an incidence of imposter who steals the identity of someone else based and it is based on human rights principle. In addition, such requirement does not incur unnecessary burden among the people and could not be construed as a discrimination or human rights violation.
2. The implementation: The measure has been implemented based on the Principle of Proportionality as the information has been widely publicized among local people via the village committees, TV, radio, print media and sms sent in both Thai and Yawee to encourage them to get registered. Also, the timeframe for such registration is long enough. And according to the data collected from SIM cards connected to all cell towers in the local area, it has been found that there are 1,500,000 phone numbers in the area. Of this, 300,000 are pos-paid numbers which belong to legal entities that have registered already, businesspeople and incoming tourists. There remain 1.2 million numbers that need to be encouraged to get registered. The implementation has then been split into two phases. The first phase began from 1 June until 31 October 2019 after which there were just some SIM cards that had yet to get registered. Recognizing the potential impact on users of such unregistered numbers, the second Notification has been issued on 1 October 2019 to extend the registration deadline to 30 April 2020 (Phase II) in order to mitigate impacts among users in remote area. Still, a few of them have turned up to get registered. From our investigation, it has been found that such unregistered SIM cards have not been of active use. Some of such numbers have been literally left unused. Some numbers have been used, but in other areas. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic took place.
3. After the extension of such registration in Phase II on 30 April 2020, we have received no complaints from any users regarding the denial of their phone services.
4. As to the allegation that such disconnection has caused grievance among unregistered users, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which can be divided into;
4.1 Educationally, from 1 May 2020 until now, we have received no complaints from either parents or students who might have been affected.
4.2 Economically, the reorganization of mobile phone SIM cards in the SBPs benefits local people since it obviously helps to protect them against abuse while the perpetration of violence aided by the use of mobile phone SIM cards to trigger improvised explosive devices (IED) has significantly decreased. People become more confident with online commerce as online frauds or deceptions have obviously dropped.
4.3 Regarding public safety and access to public health services: The allegation by dissenters that information given during the registration process will be stored by ISOC Region 4 Forward Command is totally unfounded. The “two-shot identification” app developed by the NBTC requires that all five service providers work to enhance safety of their users and to help beef up national security as well as to ensure public safety and safety in property of the people.
The implementation until now has been met with enthusiastic response and cooperation from service providers, mobile phone users and various sectors in the SBPs. Users of nearly 900,000 numbers from 1.2 million numbers have cooperated with us. As a result, the use of SIM cards to perpetrate violence has reduced markedly. Meanwhile, the public become more confident about the safety over the use of their SIM cards. And after the SIM card registration period, we have received no complaints from the users.
Please be informed.
Gen. Teerawat Bunyawat, ISOC’s Secretary General on behalf of ISOC’s Director
Office of Security Policy and Strategy, phone 0 2241 1055