Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - SIM card crackdown

SIM card crackdown

Customers choose mobile phone numbers yesterday in Phnom Penh while purchasing a SIM card at a street-side store.
Customers choose mobile phone numbers yesterday in Phnom Penh while purchasing a SIM card at a street-side store. Vireak Mai

SIM card crackdown

Anyone who purchased a mobile phone SIM card without providing appropriate ID can expect to see those phone numbers terminated, while any retailer selling SIM cards without collecting identification documents faces arrest, the government announced yesterday.

“Telecom operators must tell [existing] customers, including foreigners, that they must complete ID documents within three months or their numbers will be automatically deleted,” Chhay Sinarith, National Police deputy chief, said yesterday at a press conference held jointly with Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications Director-General Mao Chakyra.

He added that 70 per cent of the 20 million or so SIM cards in use in Cambodia, where many residents own more than one, have no ID attached to them, meaning as many as 14 million phone numbers could be discontinued.

For retailers, who have been legally bound to record ID details when selling cards since 2012, there will be no grace period.

The crackdown, which begins today, will see any retailer found selling a SIM card without forwarding ID details to the government temporarily detained and “educated” or formally arrested.

The tough new measures were necessary to combat terrorists, drug traffickers, kidnappers, extortionists and other criminals who take advantage of the anonymity provided by SIM cards purchased without identification, according to Sinarith.

“We have seen terrorists detonate bombs in hotels using mobile devices,” he said. “When we investigated a bomb that went off in front of the office of the Council of Ministers, we found the perpetrators had used 120 mobile numbers of which 101 had no ID attached to them, whilst another 10 used fake IDs.”

However, human rights defenders are already voicing concerns that the crackdown on SIM cards is part of a wider chipping away at civil liberties.

“When the Ministry of Interior announced the introduction of surveillance equipment on all of Cambodia’s internet service providers and cell networks in December 2014, the spokesman stated that the motivation was to ‘control people’ using mobile services,” said Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

“In light of the recent arrests of ordinary people and opposition figures for Facebook posts, this apparently innocuous regulation can be seen as a real threat to freedom of expression in Cambodia.”

Sopheap also questioned the speed with which the new measures are being introduced.

“The likelihood is that most Cambodians have no idea about this new requirement,” she said.

“This may unfairly deprive huge numbers of people of their phone numbers, especially with a registration deadline as short as three months.”

Anyone who has a SIM card bought without providing ID can avoid losing the number by registering it with photo ID at a phone company outlet or police station, Sinarith said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement