Senior government officials yesterday issued a stern warning to the country’s largest mobile operators, claiming they handed out SIM cards to migrant workers returning from Thailand without getting their proper identification.
According to deputy national police commissioner Chhay Sinarith, Metfone, Smart and Cellcard started giving out the donation packages, which included SIM cards with free credit, to migrants fleeing Thailand in fear of a crackdown by the military junta about two weeks ago.
“We found that a lot of SIM cards had been sold or given away without identifying the subscribers,” Sinarith said.
“Of course, we do recognise their [mobile operators'] generosity, but they have to make sure that those given a SIM card have been properly identified, otherwise this will make trouble in society, because they can use the [unidentified] SIM to make explosive devices,” he said.
Government officials held a meeting with the telcos yesterday at National Police headquarters in Phnom Penh. Sinarith said the mobile operators were given two weeks to attain proper documentation from the SIM card recipients or take action to terminate the new subscriber accounts.
“We ordered them [mobile operators] to send an SMS notification, voice message or use whatever means necessary to contact those people who were given the SIMs [and] demand that they provide documents proving their identity,” the deputy police commissioner said.
Smart CEO Thomas Hundt yesterday denied any wrongdoing. He said that his company’s identification processes remained stringent and that every person had his or her ID card photographed before receiving a SIM card.
“As a general practice and also in this case, Smart is very strict, and for this reason [SIM cards] are only being handed out with an ID card,” he said.
Cellcard, however, admitted that in a rush to help returning migrants, some people were signed up to the mobile provider without presenting proper identification.
“There may have been instances where due to the demand for Cellcard sims full id was not provided,” Cellcard CEO Ian Watson, said via text message yesterday.
“[I]n these exceptional cases we [will] retrospectively get ID. We have spoken to all of all our sale team to ensure full adherence to the ID requirements.”
He added that this was not common practice for the firm.
Of the three mobile operators, Vietnamese-owned firm Metphone handed out the most SIM cards at 12,000. Cellcard gave out about 7,000 and Smart about 2,000, according to Sinarith.
Metfone could not be reached for comment.