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Government wants callers’ ID

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A man uses a mobile phone yesterday in Phnom Penh.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Telecommunications Minister So Khun had issued an inter-ministerial directive that requires telecom service providers to turn over the identity information of their subscribers and users to the Interior Ministry in a bid to aid crime-fighting, Interior Ministry officials said yesterday.

Chhay Sinareth, head of the security department at the ministry, announced the directive, which has equivalent force in law to a prakas, at a national police commission meet.

“The police have made victorious crackdowns in over 2,850 cases of kidnapping and life-threatening crimes in 2011 by using evidence from telecommunications systems including mobile phones and the internet,” he said.

“The number of crimes was remarkably reduced under the good collaboration between the expert ministries and mobile networks and internet companies in searching for, and timely crackdowns on, the criminals.”

The directive, signed on March 28, requires all telecoms operators, as well as points of sale and distribution, to register their business and for the proprietors of internet cafes and public phones to instal security cameras to film customers’ use of telecommunications equipment. It also requires all identity information gathered by telecoms service providers to be handed over to the Ministry of Interior.

Currently, the law requires a mobile phone subscriber to produce a valid identity card before connecting to a telecoms service provider. Service providers are obliged to retain this identity information.

“The directive demands telecom operators, selling and distribution branches to identify and copy user identity cards to avoid forgery that causes social insecurity,” Chhay Sinarith said, adding operators and sales and distribution points would be fined if they did not comply.

“With my ongoing experience and research in Cambodia, the criminals always use telecommunication services including mobile phone and internet as a means to commit terrorism, cross-border crimes, robbery, kidnapping, murdering, human and drug trafficking, economic-related crime, installation crime and telecommunication business in spreading pornography and other sexual harassment,” he said.

Chhay Sinarith said Cambodia’s eight mobile phone companies and 27 internet companies had a registered total of 1.6 million users.

But according to data collected from operators and points of sale and distribution for telecoms services, there were more than 16 million SIM cards in circulation, he said, adding that this meant users were buying multiple cards for personal use.

San Mao, a 28-year-old from Svay Rieng province, said mobile phone company promotions meant SIM cards sold for between 1,000 riels and US$1 but came with up to $6 credit.

“I always buy two or three SIM cards [Metfone] per month to contact my family and friends because it is cheaper than public mobile services and when it runs out of money, I just take it out and put a new one in,” he said, adding that he was never asked for identification because he was such a regular customer.

Chhay Sinarith said there would be an official dissemination of the directive on Koh Pich on Friday for telecom operators and their distribution and sales outlets to attend.

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