After problems sprung up in several areas of Thailand, land holders as well as those thinking about buying plots are encouraged to use a new smartphone app to check whether the land they want to buy encroaches upon protected areas, reports local media. Royal Forest Department (RFD) Director-General Chonlatid Suraswadi urged people to use the Forest4Thai app, which allows users to see the status of a land plot.
One of the most high profile cases happened recently at Hi-So Hill, a privately owned resort featuring land plots in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong district. The area was popular with wealthy people and property developers for its proximity to the forest. However, the RFD found that at least 2 of the 18 plots were inside forest boundaries making them illegal to own.
Owners of 11 plots at the site had the correct documents, but the 2 inside the forest reserve did not hold the proper land rights documents or a construction licence, reports The Nation. Buyers here included both Thais and foreigners who now face losing their property.
Land encroachment is nothing new in Thailand with nearly 100 cases of forest encroachment being found in Chiang Mai alone. The most common defence for those holding the land is that they have the title deed or Sor Por Gor 4-01 document which provides the holder with the right to occupy and transfer the land through inheritance. These cases have been sent to the Interior Ministry and the Land Department to investigate further. In some cases, the land right documents were revoked.
The problem is a national one with nearly 1,000 similar cases happening in Thailand. Most cases are currently in the central areas of Kanchanaburi, Phetchaburi, Nakhon Nayok, and Phetchabun. The RFD wants people who are considering buying land plots here to use the Forest4Thai app to see if the plot is located within forest boundaries.