In the arrival hall of Ho Chi Minh City airport, a group of travellers crowded around a kiosk are trying to decide which mobile phone carrier to subscribe to.
A sales assistant fishes out a brochure listing prices of SIM cards packaged with various prepaid services. SIM cards and Vietnamese dong change hands swiftly and anonymously.
Security concerns are prompting regional governments to tighten regulations on SIM cards, but these remain easy to get.
While Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have ordered retailers to collect more personal information from those buying SIM cards – and even shut down the accounts of unregistered ones – SIM cards continue to be sold in many places with few questions asked.
The clampdowns are taking place as people increasingly shop and bank with their mobile phones. Meanwhile, migrants, low-income workers and travellers continue to sustain the sales of prepaid “disposable” SIM cards that are topped up when needed, making enforcement a challenge.
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