The government is linking up more than 360,000 security cameras to create the most comprehensive surveillance coverage to battle crime and enhance the justice system, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon says.
The move is being carried out as footage from closed-circuit cameras presents crucial evidence in criminal investigations.
Gen Prawit said the first task was to repair some of the defective cameras as authorities survey the equipment across most provinces. Cameras installed in the restive far South are already connected to a central surveillance system accessed by various security agencies.
Cameras in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat operate with the supervision of the National Security Council.
The three provinces operate a combined 8,200 cameras.
In other provinces, officials have been ordered to report to the government on the condition of the devices in order to prepare for the "integration of all security cameras", Gen Prawit, who oversees national security affairs, said. He made the statement after chairing a meeting of the Cameras Integration Committee.
An initial survey has found at least 8,000 cameras are out of order. The Interior Ministry is continuing with the survey.
It is checking cameras in 27 provinces, including those on the border with neighbouring countries. Officials have already finished the job in 10 provinces.
The deputy prime minister demanded the speedy repair of the malfunctioning cameras, especially those in isolated spots prone to crimes.
"Officials who don't repair them will be regarded as ignoring their duty," defence spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich quoted Gen Prawit as saying.
Officials who fail to do their duties will face severe punishments, Lt Gen Kongcheep added. The government has set a deadline for pooling the surveillance cameras by early next year when all surveillance cameras of various state agencies must be hooked up to the central network.
The Interior Ministry's information technology units are assigned to spearhead plans to manage the CCTV surveillance system and work closely with police patrol and special operation units, known as 191 police, in each province.
Yesterday's meeting also resolved to grant a tax reduction to building owners who install CCTV cameras to encourage them to help the government form the security camera network, Lt Gen Kongcheep said.
The Finance Ministry will be asked to implement the tax reduction measure.
According to the latest inspection, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Nakhon Sawan are most ready for CCTV linkage, Lt Gen Kongcheep said.
Fifteen other large provinces are expected to follow suit while the remaining provinces, which are building infrastructure for camera installation, should be ready for the nationwide connection in a later phase.
The committee wants all state agencies to treat this as an urgent issue, Lt Gen Kongcheep said.
Police are growing increasingly dependent on security cameras to identify and track down criminal suspects in order to successfully convict them.