Opinion: The lay of the land

Dr Sangdao Wongsai, 35, from Bangkok, is a professor at Prince of Songkhla University’s Phuket campus. She graduated with a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the King Mongkut University of Techonology in Thonburi, before earning a Doctorate in Applied Statistics from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. She now teaches statistics and researches geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing.

Here, she talks about a website she helped create, which is a one-stop service for Phuket land information and sustainable land usage in the Andaman provinces.

PHUKET: We have created a website that is a one-stop service which provides specific data as well as tips for land buyers or sellers before they make a decision to buy or sell land.

Readers can find out what is legal and illegal for certain areas of the island without having to go to so many relevant offices and read too many complicated pieces of legal literature.

While working with a Kamala Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor) official on this project as part of his master’s degree research, we realized how essential a service like this is for Phuket. The university and I decided to continue this research after the official completed his part and moved on. It has taken us four years, but now we have data for the entire island.

Our research has brought together the most updated satellite pictures of the land on Phuket and data from three laws – Town Planning Act BE 2518, Building Control Act BE 2522 (1979) and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment BE 2553 (2010). All potential land owners would be well advised to consult these laws before buying land on the island.

People can go to the website, search for a land plot and click on it. The site will show you what you can and cannot do with the land. There are many benefits to be gained by using a website like this.

The data in the website can help the public, especially relevant government officers, to work faster. It can help investors and land sellers or buyers to get information they need before making a final decision.

Foreign investors who are abroad do not have to come to Thailand to check the land, or go to many offices to get essential information. They can ensure that they are not being cheated or fooled into buying protected land. From an economic standpoint, this will give investors more confidence.

Crooked landowners or officials will not be able to use loopholes in the law to benefit themselves, as everyone has the same information they do.

Additionally, environmental experts and researchers can use the data to encourage proper, environmentally friendly use of the land. This information gives us the tools to prevent the destruction of our environment.

As anyone can visit the website and access this information, the number of land fraud cases will decrease, transparency in business will increase and people and officials will be able to avoid land grabs and problems.

These are all expected benefits that use of the website offers. To what extent it can actually help society is in the hands of the local government.

I have handed them a sharpened knife. It is their decision to approve the information for official use. Until then, the information on the site is labeled ‘unofficial data’.

We did the research for them. They have to decide whether or not they will use it.

Visit the website at https://landuse.te.psu.ac.th/phuket/

— Kongleaphy Keam

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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