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Millions of SIM cards still missing ID

Customers look at mobile phone numbers for sale at a SIM card store in central Phnom Penh last year.
Customers look at mobile phone numbers for sale at a SIM card store in central Phnom Penh last year. Vireak Mai

Millions of SIM cards still missing ID

Nearly eight months since the National Police and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications announced a crackdown on unregistered mobile phone SIM cards, at least 2 million of the electronic chips are in circulation with no user information attached to them.

Im Vutha, director of the regulation and dispute unit at the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC), said yesterday that about 10 per cent of the country’s roughly 20 million SIM cards remain unregistered.

He said the TRC would cooperate with the Ministry of Interior to enforce a government directive issued on September 22 that requires all SIM cards to be linked to the identification documents of their primary user.

At the time, a National Police official claimed 70 per cent of SIM cards in use in Cambodia were unregistered. He said the crackdown aimed at curtailing the activities of criminals and terrorists, who benefit from the anonymity of unregistered SIM cards.

The September 22 edict required retailers to collect identification documents before selling SIM cards to customers. Anyone who purchased a SIM card without providing the appropriate ID was given three months to register or see their phone number terminated, while retailers caught selling SIM cards without collecting the required information could face arrest.

However, three months lapsed and little had changed. The country’s biggest mobile operators complained they had not been given enough time to implement the necessary administrative changes and were granted an extension.

According to Vutha, the government is losing its patience with mobile operators, and is demanding that the companies account for the number of their unregistered SIM cards in use.

“We notified all mobile operators to inform their customers to register, but so far they have tried to delay, even though we set a deadline,” he said. “We don’t want any more delays, which is why we will check with the operators and obtain the actual statistics of registration.”

Chhay Sinarith, deputy chief of the National Police, estimates that 30 to 40 per cent of SIM cards are unregistered. He said further delays in enforcement would only increase the risk to society.

“We need to regulate SIM cards seriously as those who do not register and are not properly identified pose a risk to our society,” he said.

“The more time delayed, the more opportunities that are created for illegal users.”

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