With Government on Holiday, SIM Crackdown on Hold

Government pledges to ensure all mobile phone SIM cards are registered have once again been stymied—this time by public festivities—with the latest deadline for company compliance passing without any action.

Despite promising two weeks ago that a working group formed to enforce the order for mobile operators to either register all accounts or shut down numbers would be active by the middle of this month, a spokesman for Telecommunication Regulator Cambodia said police had yet to join the effort.

A man browses SIM cards for sale at a Smart kiosk in Phnom Penh in January. (Enric Catala)
A man browses SIM cards for sale at a Smart kiosk in Phnom Penh in January. (Enric Catala)

“We will ask my director to sign the letter tomorrow,” said the spokesman, Im Vutha. “And then we will send the letter to the National Police to ask the police force to join in the working group.”

Having vowed to start checking for compliance this week and hand down punishment to companies in the form of fines or suspensions, the working group was held up by the Water Festival, Mr. Vutha said. He added that unregistered SIMs were still being sold in the open.

Chhay Sinarith, deputy national police commissioner in charge of internal security, declined to comment on the efforts, which are meant to prevent anonymous users from conducting illicit transactions or other crimes using mobile phones.

The three major mobile operators—Smart, Metfone and Cellcard —all had messages on their websites telling users to register by October 31, though none of the companies said they would shut down accounts on a certain date.

Chhin Sopheak, a Cellcard customer service representative, said that those in charge of deciding when unregistered accounts would be shut down were either unavailable or on vacation in Europe, and directed questions to the company’s Facebook page.

There, a message sent by the company’s account said unregistered users would receive an SMS notification giving them seven days to address the situation.

“After 7 days, your outgoing calls will be barred, and after 14 days both your outgoing and incoming calls will be barred,” the message said.

(Additional reporting by Aisha Down)

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