Mobile operators in Thailand will introduce an online fingerprint ID system for new prepaid and postpaid mobile SIM card registration, with a tentative deadline set for next February, according to a report by the Bangkok Post.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), however, is asking for all existing mobile users to put their fingerprints in the system on a voluntary basis for their own security benefit.

"We urge all mobile users to participate in the system to ensure greater security of the mobile banking channel and prevent the risk of fraud, which is likely to increase in a cashless society," said NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith.

Thailand has 103 million mobile subscribers, 14 million of whom use mobile banking services, Tantasith said.

Through a biometric enrolment process, mobile operators will scan and store each person's fingerprint records on the NBTC's secure database server, said Mr Takorn.

The NBTC's telecom committee originally approved the plan to use a fingerprint registration system in September. The NBTC selected a fingerprint enrolment system which was developed by the Engineering Faculty of Kasetsart University. The school won an auction held by the NBTC offering to supply the system for 15 million baht.

The government will ensure that the fingerprint system would not create a financial burden on mobile operators as this investment can be deducted as a business expense from the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fee operators pay annually to the NBTC.

Banks and mobile operators have increasingly been urged to boost the standards for customer authentication systems in a bid to prevent fraud through mobile banking activities — currently one of the most popular mobile services.

According to the Bangkok Post, the plan was first announced in August following a notorious case in which a man was robbed of nearly 1 million baht from his bank account through mobile banking. Phansuthi Meeluekij said the perpetrators used a fake ID to get his mobile operator to issue a replacement SIM card for his phone number. The thieves then changed the password of his Kasikornbank mobile banking account and transferred all his money out.

The case raised concerns about the new national PromptPay system, which the government and private sector was set to launch last month before suddenly putting it on hold until some time next year.

The fingerprint identity verification system was suggested by Takorn, who earlier this year sparked controversy by calling for tracking the locations of foreigners with a special SIM card. The plan soon stalled.

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