Thailand forces registration of prepaid phones to thwart insurgency

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In a move aimed at hampering the near-daily bombing attacks in southern Thailand, all owners of prepaid phones are required to register by midnight local time today or face being blocked.

Originally scheduled for implementation at the end of last year, the move was deferred to allow people more time to register their phones. The policy only applies to the three southernmost provinces that border MalaysiaPattani, Narathiwat, and Yala — formerly the Malay Pattani kingdom.

Thais from other parts of the country with prepaid phones will also be required to register should they wish to visit the region. When doing so their calls will be treated as roaming, a feature of GSM which allows a user to make and receive calls on a network other than that of their service provider.

Many of the bombs used in the south are believed to be detonated by mobile phone, although most of the more than one thousand casualties in the region have been from drive-by shootings and stabbings.

It is reported that 65% of the near half-million prepaid phones in the region that this would impact have been registered. Prepaid phones are commonplace throughout Thailand and estimates put the number in use throughout the whole country at approximately ten million.

Other efforts to deal with the insurgency in the predominantly Muslim area include an announcement yesterday that approximately 20,000 local villagers will be given training and small arms to help defend their villages. Both men and women will be eligible, and those accepted into the programme will be put onto the government payroll.

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