Homeowners and landowners can find out if their properties are in restricted areas thanks to a new online mapping tool.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) tool, http://dsi-map.go.th, is designed to provide both state agencies and landowners with the same source of mapping data with transparency to avoid possible arguments over land ownership.
People can check and verify their properties by themselves, said Pol Lt Col Prawut Wongseenin, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection and Environment Crime at the DSI.
He said the digital mapping tool is also a preventive measure that helps citizens become government watchdogs to protect natural resources.
To access the site, users can find the latitude and longitude of a point using DSI maps or by supplying the names of villages, tambon and districts to check their properties.
Results will appear in a few minutes with a map scale of 1:5,000 and an accuracy rate of 90%.
Accessing data about land rights was previously limited to state officers.
The DSI maps help officers access data for deforestation investigations more easily. This enables a quick primary inquiry before a more thorough investigation.
Citizens can also check if their land is located on forest reserves. "This could prevent people from selling fake title deeds on forest reserves to innocent people," Pol Lt Col Prawut said.
Rawat Sangchoti, a special case officer at the DSI's Bureau of Consumer Protection and Environment Crime, said its mapping system uses Google's map data and open-source mapping software.
The system could save the government up to 10 million baht.
By exchanging data with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, users can also check details of national parks, reserved forest areas, mangrove forests and the Agricultural Land Reform Office.
The system also displays basic information about those areas and relevant laws and regulations.
Mr Rawat said people can use the tool via smartphones, tablets and smart devices to search GPS-based locations.
Since 1952, he said, Thailand's forest areas have declined from 50% of the country's land to 33%. The figure is set to continue decreasing.
Mr Rawat said there are about 80 land disputes per year, but the mapping tool is likely to reduce the number of disputes, particularly those involving falsified documents.
When investigating disputes, authorities previously needed to use land survey data to identify the GPS location of a site. This process took several months, compared with a few minutes by using online mapping.
Mr Rawat said the authority plans to talk to the Land Department and the Treasury Department about sharing more data.
"Within two years, we expect to add 50 land data types from more than 10 organisations," he said.
Consumers can use a land parcel number to check the system for more accurate results.
Pol Lt Col Prawut said the DSI needs to provide basic knowledge about using the system to the public, non-governmental organisations, leading communities and young people living in deforested areas.
Training courses would focus on problem areas in the South, North and Northeast regions.
He urged the government to expand the country's high-speed internet infrastructure in rural areas to allow villagers access to the mapping tool.
The project was selected as one of the seven role models for the Innovation Idols Thailand award under the Innovation Thailand project, sponsored by Google and the Commerce Ministry's Intellectual Property Department.
Ariya Banomyong, the country head of Google Thailand, said the internet is considered the most efficient infrastructure for sharing creativity, exchanging data and creating jobs.
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