Cet article passe en revue les systèmes fonciers et les données foncières en Thaïlande afin de démontrer l'importance des informations connexes en matière de détermination des stratégies. Cet article offre également un bilan des bases de données et des contraintes tant pour le processus de collecte que pour la qualité des données, des éléments qui peuvent peser sur la valeur des informations. Il attire l'attention sur les différents aspects que revêtent les conflits sociaux dont les origines remontent à la démarche segmentée adoptée lors de la gestion des terres en Thaïlande. Les zones forestières représentent la pièce maîtresse: vu l'importance écologique et le caractère «d'accès ouvert» des ressources qui s'y trouvent, ces zones se heurtent à des demandes conflictuelles ayant trait à des préoccupations en matière d'économie, d'équité et d'environnement. Si d'aucuns font valoir que les données foncières peuvent contribuer pour une large part à traiter les conflits se rapportant aux terres, il n'en demeure pas moins que leur valeur pratique est amoindrie du fait de l'inconsistance des informations et du fait qu'elles ne sont pas aisément accessibles, ou ne peuvent pas être conjuguées à d'autres afin de permettre une analyse approfondie. Trop souvent, cela signifie que les décideurs ne peuvent pas utiliser immédiatement les informations imparties en raison des délais et des frais supplémentaires occasionnés afin de recueillir des informations complémentaires ou afin de vérifier la validité et l'exactitude des informations existantes.
Este artículo revisa los sistemas de titularidad territorial y los datos de tenencia de la tierra en Tailandia con el objeto de ilustrar la importancia de la información para el establecimiento de las políticas. El artículo abarca también la situación de las bases de datos existentes y se circunscribe al proceso de recogida y a la calidad de los datos, que puede limitar el valor de la información. Se mencionan las diferentes zonas de conflictos sociales que pueden dar origen a un enfoque segmentado de gestión territorial en Tailandia. Las zonas forestales son objeto de especial atención debido a su importancia ecológica y al carácter de «acceso abierto» de los recursos; en estas zonas se observan demandas competitivas relacionadas con intereses económicos, de equidad y medioambientales. Aunque los datos de tenencia agrícola puedan ser útiles para abordar los conflictos territoriales, su valor práctico es limitado debido a la incoherencia de la información y a las dificultades de acceso, y a la dificultad de realizar un análisis en profundidad. Esto significa que los responsables de las políticas no puedan utilizar de inmediato la información disponible y que existan costos añadidos, tanto para recopilar la información adicional como para verificar la validez y la exactitud de la información existente.
Orapan Nabangchang-Srisawalak, Associate Professor, School of Economics,
Sukhothai Thammatirat Open University, and Coordinator of Land Forum Thailand
This article reviews land tenure Systems and land tenure data in Thailand in order to illustrate the importance of such information for policy-making. The article also discusses the status of existing databases and constraints both in the process of collection and the quality of the data, which may limit the value of the information. It draws attention to the various areas of social conflicts that can be traced to the segmented approach to land administration in Thailand. The focal point of attention is forest areas: in view of the ecological importance and the “open access” nature of the resources, these areas face competing demands related to economic, equity and environmental concerns. It is argued that while land tenure data can be instrumental in addressing land-related conflicts, much of the practical value is lost because of inconsistency of information and because information is not readily accessible, or cannot be combined to allow for greater depth of analysis. In practice, this means that policy-makers cannot make immediate use of the information that is available because additional time and expense are required either to collect additional information or to verify the validity and accuracy of existing information.
This article is a report of a short-term study commissioned by the FAO Land Tenure Service to review and analyse Thailand's land tenure data. The objectives can be divided into five major areas, namely: (i) to identify how and why the collection of selected land tenure data in Thailand can be valuable to policy-makers; (ii) to review and assess the current status of collection of land tenure data in selected provinces of Thailand, including particular constraints as well as the current and potential institutional homes for the data; (iii) to identify the main issues that should be addressed to improve the collection of land tenure data; (iv) to evaluate the available land tenure data from the point of view of the Assets Capitalization Bureau (ACB) and its task, as well as the valuation of agricultural properties; and (v) to suggest issues that could be explored further in a given context.
To address the issues listed above, the following sections present findings in five corresponding areas, namely, the changing context of land resources in the Thai economy; the profile of public land administration institutions; public land resource management issues; the current status and limitations of land and tenure System information; and the relevance of reliable land tenure data to support land-related development policies.
THE CHANGING CONTEXT OF LAND RESOURCES IN THE THAI ECONOMY
One of the most important factors underlying the steady growth of the Thai agriculture sector is the expansion of the area under cultivation. It has been argued that the perceived abundance of land has influenced an extensive rather than an intensive cropping pattern (a situation in which increased output can be achieved through bringing more land under cultivation, thus postponing the necessity of rationalizing land use to ensure greater land productivity). The expansion of agricultural land has resulted from the conversion of the country's natural forests. Thailand's forest areas have been steadily declining over the past decades since the first National Economic and Social Development Plan. In 1961, area classified as being under forest coverage was 27.4 million hectares, equivalent to 53 percent of the total area of the country. Between 1961 and 1981, forest coverage reduced by half, to only 14.4 million hectares. Increasing frequency of natural hazards, combined with public pressure, led to the withdrawal of ail logging concessions in 1989. In the period between 1991 and 1999, the rate of deforestation slowed down marginally, though total loss was still around 96 000 hectares per year. But during this same period, there was also a net loss of 320 000 hectares of agricultural land due to conversion to non-agricultural uses and urbanization processes, as well as an increase of around 1 million hectares in “unclassified” land. The reduction in agricultural land has been partially compensated for by the encroachment on forest areas and conversion to agricultural use, phenomena that are not without environmental and related economic consequences. Current natural forest coverage is estimated at around 25 percent of Thailand's total area.
PUBLIC LAND ADMINISTRATION INSTITUTIONS AND THE DEFINITION OF PRIVATE AND PUBLIC LAND
To understand the land tenure System in Thailand, it is important to distinguish between private and public land. The Land Code 1954 constitutes the most comprehensive enactment pertaining to ownership and utilization of land resources even up to the present period. The Land Code distinguishes between de facto occupancy and legal recognition of rights of property, which is the foundation of the concept of individual private property rights. In sanctioning private property, the Land Code thus makes a distinction between private land and public land that refers to ail remaining land not claimed by private ownership (Nabangchang-Srisawalak, 1992).
To obtain the title deed, which is the legal document acknowledging the full bundle of rights of private property, four documentary stages are specified by the Land Code B.E. 2504 starting from the claim certificate or the Bai Chong (literally translated as the “right to reserve”), pre-emptive certificate, exploitation testimonial and title deed (Nabangchang-Srisawalak, 1992). Registration of private land had initially been a slow process given the limited financial resources and technical capacity. In 1984, recognizing the economic merits of land titling and under political pressure to rationalize the land tenure System, loans and technical assistance were sought from the World Bank and AusAID for the Department of Land in a series of land titling projects, which contributed to the tremendous progress in issuing land titles (ADBTA, 2002). Given that certain regulatory frameworks had to be modified and the original intention of the law has been compromised (if not overlooked), the speed accomplished has not been without trade-offs with social and economic consequences. The merits of shortened procedures created loopholes, which benefited occupiers of land who may not have had legitimate claims. In 2004, with registration of private land in its final stages, approximately 40 percent of the total area of the country, equal to 20.48 million hectares, is classified as private land.
Over the years, expansion of agricultural land, either as a result of population pressure or in response to market opportunities, has always been faster than the corresponding legal and administrative System to formalize land occupancy, usage, ownership and control. The dominant approach of the state was to use legislative tools to assert legal claims over various types of “public land”, as well as to create agencies to implement the legislation. Although the scope of responsibilities of many of these agencies may be clear, what remains unclear is the “area dimension” of their jurisdiction. Over the years, common problems of many public land areas have been encroachment and utilization of land. In many cases, occupation of land (sometimes owing simply to lack of knowledge that land was publicly owned) without any contending of the claims (in this case from the responsible public agencies) often led to conflicts arising from. overlapping claims. The highest numbers of conflicts are concentrated in forest areas. The number of agencies involved with land administration proliferated and peaked at one time at 21 agencies, each with separate mandates, authorized by different laws and adopting different procedures (Nabangchang-Srisawalak, 1992) .These agencies can be divided into two groups. The first are public agencies authorized to lease public land (or land belonging to the state) as well as to allocate public land. The other group consists of agencies that do not have a legal mandate to lease or allocate public land but are nonetheless involved in land administration under specific circumstances, mostly to resettle occupants affected by physical infrastructure development projects.
Among the agencies responsible for land allocation are the Cooperatives Promotion Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (until recently known as the Public Welfare Department) under the Ministry of Interior. These were the first two agencies responsible for resettling farmers affected by physical infrastructure development projects such as construction of dams, irrigation facilities, hydropower plants and highways. Beneficiaries in the cooperatives settlement are granted a document, which, after a specified period, can be transferred into land titles. Similarly, members of the self-help settlements are granted land documents which after a specified period, can be transferred into land titles.
The Royal Forestry Department (RFD) is a powerful organization that has maintained its influence despite the continued decline in forestry resources discussed earlier. The RFD's earlier involvement in land allocation was primarily because of widespread encroachment on areas classified as national forest reserves and several categories of forest “protected areas”. Provided that areas encroached were not in watershed areas, farmers were granted usufruct rights. Many of the land conflicts of today go on inside forest areas of different categories, which have been reserved or protected for environmental reasons. The underlying causes centre around the following:
Forestlands have been cleared and utilized prior to declaration as forest reserves.
Vacillation of policies, alternating between compromise and strict enforcement of rules.
Continued clearance from within the forest (expansion of population and new migrants from neighbouring countries across the borders) and from outside pressure (owing both to increasing population and competing demands for economic uses).
A vacuum of authority during the transitional period of public sector reform. Many functions of the RFD have been split between utilization (still under the RFD under the MOAC) and conservation to be handled by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife under the recently established Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
In 1974, coinciding with the Third Plan (1972–1976), several violent incidents occurred between farmers and landlords or moneylenders in the Lower Northern Region. This led to the enforcement of agricultural land reform policy, the enactment of the Agricultural Land Reform Act 1975 and the establishment of the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO). It was not to be a radical land redistribution with compulsory transfer of land from large landowners to landless and near landless farmers. The land reform policy covers both public and private land. In public land, the reform recognized occupancy rights of farmers who have cleared and farmed areas in areas classified as national forest reserve. A cabinet resolution of January 1975 specified that deforested (encroached forest) areas within national reserve forests could be allocated to farmers either through land settlement programmes or under provisions of the Agricultural Land Reform Act 1975. Allowance for utilization of national forest areas will also be permitted so long as this does not lead to deforestation or is in any way in conflict with the intention of preserving forest resources. Currently, ALRO is the organization with the largest scope of work both in terms of area covered and number of beneficiaries. The total area under ALRO's responsibility is currently 37.4 million rai (just under 6 million ha) in 66 provinces of Thailand.
Apart from agencies both directly and indirectly involved, there are a number of other public agencies that contribute to land administration by providing statistical, technical and planning inputs. Among these is the Office of Agricultural Economies (OAE), responsible for collecting and compiling agricultural statistics, which contain both cross-sectional and time-series data for analysis of changes of various production and related economic indicators. Information is available by province and aggregated to district, provincial, regional and national levels. The information includes changes in crop area (by province) of the key cash crops. The series also provide data on forest areas and grazing areas; expansion of irrigated areas, fallow land and unclassified areas; changes in agricultural land and farm sizes; land tenure data; percentage of privately owned land used by the owner or mortgaged out; and agricultural land classified as owned and leased, under mortgage or used for cultivation free of charge.
One other important source of statistical information is provided by the National Statistical Office (NSO), which also collects population census data and conducts labour force surveys and an agricultural census. The agricultural census data contain information on composition and breakdown of household income, debt profile and usages of agricultural credit. The census also collects data on household assets and ownership of production assets such as land, farm machinery and equipment.
On a broader level, and not related to land information per se, are the National Rural Development (NRD) surveys, which are essentially a standard questionnaire administered nationwide, which provides a comprehensive socio-economic database on ail the villages throughout Thailand. Very limited information is collected on the land tenure situation as such. Information available includes whether or not the village or its agricultural land are located in the national forest reserve; whether there are parcels of land used as common resources by the village such as grazing ground, swamps, fishing ponds or burial grounds; and the various types of land documents that villagers have. There are land-use related variables that allow for measurement of land productivity. The responsible agency for the NRD database is the Community Development Department (CDD). Information on land suitability for each province is prepared by the Land Development Department (LDD), which was formerly under the MOAC and is now attached to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. In general, the LDD can be said to have an in-depth comprehensive database of the physical attributes of the land and covering the entire country, with vast potential for cross-analysis with social and economic data.
PUBLIC LAND RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Overlapping boundaries of responsibilities
One key problem of Thailand's administration is the excessive divisions and segmentation of responsibilities. Among other issues, this has created a lack of unified direction and goals, incoherence and compartmentalization of activities and the absence of complementarities of efforts. Existing legal structures are part of the cause of problems of land distribution and underutilization of land resources. Among the legacies of these problems is the range of types of land documents with varying legal properties that have been issued by agencies under different legislation. As there are no laws that provide a ceiling on land holdings, there are no legal restrictions on the size of land parcels that can be held by individual landowners, nor are there effective taxes that could be used to discourage concentration of land ownership or the acquisition of land for speculative purposes. Furthermore, the emphasis of the Agricultural Land Reform Act is not on private landholdings as a means of equitably distributing land, but rather on confirmation of occupancy rights of small and landless farmers on public lands. Ineffective enforcement of the Town and Country Planning Act and the Land Development Act generates an evolving pattern of land use that is inconsistent with the land use plans and utilization of land, and does not accord with land capability.
The question of land rights
Comparison of the nature of rights under land allocation programmes reveals that there are discrepancies between rights allocated to private individuals or legal entities and lessors who are smallholders. Legal entitlements vary under different laws, which give authority to the various implementing agencies. There are differences, for example, in the level of security of tenure just as there are differences in the rental rates.
Rationalization of the various types of land document into one single document, namely the title deed, is recommended to reduce management confusions as well as provide some uniformity of rights and entitlements of landownership. Among the much debated issues is whether or not to issue land titles, as opposed to usufruct rights, to farmers who occupy degraded forest areas, fringe areas or the buffer areas that border the remaining diminishing stock of forest. The theoretical argument for full land titles is that they are a precondition for an efficiently functioning land market.
Those against issuing full title deeds generally point to the risk of losing land once it can be used as loan collateral. The opposing view is that restrictions on land transfer do not necessarily prevent loss of land. Given the limited resources to provide a full coverage monitoring, restrictions on subdivision of land and the fact that prohibitions of sales or transfer to other people are not strictly enforceable in practice, there have been numerous cases of land transactions and illegal transfer. Moreover, land reform beneficiaries seldom enjoy additional support to ensure that they can put the land allocated (which is more often than not marginal land) into full productive use. In contrast, where land is productive, or has the potential to generate high rent, the demand for such land will be great with or without formal title.
Equity, efficiency and environmental concerns
With the physical supply of land diminishing, the balances between physical, economic, technical and institutional determinants of land supply have been altered. From the early 1990s onwards, not only was there concern over unsatisfactory measures to protect the areas that still remain under forest coverage, but also there was growing recognition of unsuitable agricultural practices which underlie the problems of land degradation. The physical supply of easily cultivatable land has been pushed to the limit and the potential threat to the environment has led to adjustments in the institutional framework, which is no longer supportive of further conversion of forest areas for alternative land use. Given the allegation that the prime cause for deforestation is pressure for land among the groups of poverty stricken landless and near landless people, another dimension is added, namely how to balance equity with environmental concerns.
CURRENT STATUS AND LIMITATIONS OF THE LAND TENURE SYSTEM INFORMATION
Limitations in the use value of land tenure information in Thailand are due to several factors. Variations in units of analysis, as well as differences in definition and consistency, are common. One of the most frequently encountered problems in the use of land and land tenure data from the multiple sources mentioned above is the discrepancies in the information obtained. The figures generally do not tally.
Similar problems are caused by differences in scale and blurred boundaries. The scale of the base maps will vary according to the objective of use. Each agency will have its own map-based information. If ail the areas of responsibilities of the agencies are transferred onto one single map, one of the fundamental problems, which constitutes a major cause of land use confLict, is the overlapping of areas and discrepancies in the boundaries, and therefore in the division of responsibilities between one agency and another.
Implementation of development, whether or not related to land issues, has always used the administrative boundaries as the spatial framework of implementation. But in many cases, administrative boundaries do not make sense in the management of natural resources. Experiences show that the area-based approach may be feasible under a “project” framework, with the cooperation of concerned provinces and ministries; however, this by no means assures continuity and sustainability of interprovince, interdepartmental and interministerial cooperation once the project reaches its completion stage.
Another problem arises with the information that various agencies collect, which is held in stand-alone databases. In the past decade and in recognizing the usefulness and various applications of geographic information Systems (GIS), many public agencies have invested large sums of money in procuring the hardware and the software for GIS as well as investment in training and capacity building. Within MOAC, RFD, the Department of Agriculture, OAE, LDD and ALRO have invested in their own GIS Systems, which are stand-alone and unlinked. Cost considerations aside, the design of the separate GIS databases, given the differences in units of analysis, the differences in definitions and difference in scale, greatly hinders the vast opportunities for practical uses of the information fed into these separate databases. This makes cross-checking information on some attributes or data sets or analysing the correlation between variables more costly and time consuming than would otherwise be necessary.
RELIABLE LAND TENURE DATABASES AND POLICY
While land policies have been modified over the decades in response to the changes in demand and supply, a number of policies and measures have also emerged in response to immediate events and irregularities. This may explain the ad hoc nature of the measures, the inadequacy of other components to launch the policies effectively and the failed linkages between the policies and measures. There have been inconsistencies and discrepancies between approach and anticipated outcomes. One other general observation concerns the sustainability of the interest in implementing the land policies. Interests may have been consistent on the academic side, but have tended to wane among policy-makers unless the calm is punctuated by new events. The policy framework falls into seven programmes: (i) land tax; (ii) land administration institutions; (iii) land information; (iv) conservation; (v) rehabilitation and utilization of land resources; (vi) land use zoning and protection of agricultural land; and (vii) improvement of land rights. At least four ministries will be involved as the lead agencies for each of these programmes: the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, MOAC and the Ministry of Interior.
Land information and the changing approach to land tax policy
A serious obstacle to the implementation of land policy is the tax System. Over the years, it has been generally observed that the Thai land tax System represented one of the major institutional hindrances to efficient land administration. The two major criticisms are that the land tax is regressive by nature and that the rates do not adequately reflect the opportunity cost of holding land, thus providing incentives for acquiring land for the purpose of speculation. Three proposals have been made. The first is the introduction of a progressive land tax as an alternative to imposing a ceiling on the size of the landholdings, which had at one time been specified in the Land Code; this could provide the necessary impetus for redistribution of land, reducing land concentration and producing greater intensity of land use. A second proposal is for differential tax rates based on the level of land utilization, the third option being for the differential to be calculated on the basis of land value as well as the economic rent of land (Land Institute Foundation, 2001). The extent to which the above recommendations can be put into practice depends on two conditional factors: the local governments now responsible for collection of land tax (formerly the responsibility of the Department of Lands) and the existence of land information. Land parcel maps with some information on land use would allow for efficient and systematic tax collection.
Land use zoning and protection of agricultural land as a means of livelihood for the poor
Land use zoning serves three main objectives - environmental, economic and social. The first has involved classification of forests and various categories of protected areas with varying degrees of ecological importance. Efforts on zoning for economic objectives, on the other hand, have been concentrated on identification of areas with comparative advantages for production of specific cash crops. The output of these efforts was the concept of agro-economic zones (AEZ), which would in principle balance the economic, environmental and physical aspects of agricultural production. AEZs would promote the concentrated and intensive development of agricultural products (usually as raw materials for processing) as an important land-use tool to promote agricultural diversification and improve the quality and value-added of targeted products. In addition, the AEZs would ensure economy of scale of public investments. A related objective of zoning is for protection of agricultural land as a means of livelihood for the poor (the social objective referred to above). With over 50 percent of the population still earning a large share of their economic livelihood from agriculture, there is concern that without state intervention and measures to protect agricultural land, a large segment of small-scale farmers could become deprived of their main factor of production.
POLICY ON POVERTY ERADICATION AND GAPS IN LAND INFORMATION
Concentration of land ownership represents one facet of the land market, which affects both efficiency and equity considerations in land resources utilization. This line of argument has been predominantly based on the statistical inference that there is a higher percentage of the poor among the landless and smallholders. Also, as mentioned above, the poor who have land have been very dependent on agricultural land and related assets from which they have derived income. The recent loss of such income has aggravated their poverty status.
If landlessness and near-landlessness were indeed the root of the problem of poverty, the logical and straightforward conclusion would be to redistribute and allocate land to those in need. This is where there is a large information gap. The policy-makers lack accurate information on both the demand and supply sides of the land question, which is required to launch this policy. On the demand side, verification of need and entitlement are necessary. Do applicants fit the definition of the “poor”? What should be the criteria for land allocation, how does one decide who deserves land or who needs land more? Does it matter if the applicant is not a local inhabitant of the area if they need land? On the supply side, each public agency may have information on the number of inhabitants and the type of legal documents the occupants hold in the areas for which it is responsible; there may or may not be records of official boundaries. In most cases, what agencies do not have is information on current land use in those areas. In practice, the existence of a stock of land does not necessary guarantee availability for allocation. The probability that any unclaimed land has already been occupied and utilized is almost 100 percent. In other words, there are vacant lands for allocation as part of poverty alleviation measures as such.1
ASSETS CAPITALIZATION: BRIDGING LAND TO THE CAPITAL MARKETS 2
One of the main drivers of the assets capitalization policy is the recognition that a sizeable stock of assets, particularly those held by lower-income and the poverty-stricken groups, cannot be capitalized. The combination of constraints, ranging from the questionable legitimacy of claims, the risk factors and the high costs for administering loans to large number of loan applicants, has resulted in differential costs of capital for the marginalized social and economic groups, thereby placing them in even more disadvantaged positions. Moreover, the fact that those assets cannot be used to access capital amounts to saying that the value of assets in question is limited to only its use value, thus restricting the ability to maximize the potential economic rent.
The launching of this policy is based on two basic assumptions. First, while the poor do have assets, operational channels for the poor to access capital are currently limited. Second, creating access to capital can be a modality for unleashing the productive capacity of the poor, thereby helping them to escape the poverty trap. The policy intervention is designed to create that access to capital by formalizing lesser forms of property rights used by the marginalized economic groups in the rural sector, as well as their urban poor counterparts in the so-called informal sector of the economy. A precondition for bridging these small and informal economies to the capital markets will be the registration of those assets as a step towards creating values from them.
The existence of accurate data and information, both in terms of registration records and maps, is of critical importance, and is seen as a precondition to gaining access to formal sources of credit. In launching the policy, many of the factors and basic information appear to be unknown, such as: what is the stock of land under public agencies; what are the legal properties and how do they affect price and the capitalization process; and what is the land value, and to what extent do such values determine access to the formal capital market?
Regarding the first two objectives, in estimating the stock of public land that is under the responsibility of various public agencies in Thailand, the five basic questions are: (i) how much land is under the jurisdiction of the various public agencies; (ii) the size and the location of land; (iii) the current status of land use; (iv) whether land is legally occupied through formal permission of the agencies responsible or leased out, or whether land is illegally occupied through encroachment; and (v) the market values of various types of land documents. One of the difficulties of estimating the total stock of public land is that although each public agency has been and still is responsible for compiling and updating their land database, there is no single agency that compiles and combines the data. In most cases, there is no established access to land data even among the public institutions themselves. Thus, more often than not, there is heavy reliance on informal and personal channels.
As the key agency at the policy level to oversee the implementation of this policy, the immediate concern of the ACB is to expedite the process of registration of land rights, contracts and various types of permits on assets, as well as verification of the authenticity of such documents. To minimize both time and expense by being able to focus efforts on what is really essential, it was decided that it would be a more practical start for the agencies in charge of the land assets covered by the policy and the financial institutions to work out what critical information would be needed. The agencies directly responsible, together with the public financial institutions, will be responsible for improving and converting the existing database into computerized information that can be shared. The ACB will work with the Ministry of Information Technology and Communication to design a central data System, which will link up with the specific database of the implementing agencies.
The information and analysis presented in this article illustrate the importance of land and land tenure data to policy-makers. Access to land and tenure information, as well as accuracy and reliability of information, are essential inputs to current policy-making in the three key areas of poverty alleviation, environmental protection and improvement of access to capital markets.
Discussions on the current status of the collection of land tenure data highlight both shortcomings and potential areas for improvement. The advantages that Thailand may appear to enjoy with respect to neighbouring countries are the existence of multiple databases, and the availability of a critical mass of qualified statisticians and technicians with years of experience in collection, computation and analysis of data. In recent decades, Thailand has also made large investments in building the digital databases with comprehensive socio-economic and physical data. The shortcomings highlighted in this article, however, show that the fragmented approach and coordination constraints have limited the practical value of the information available. Higher practical value can be gained if the multiple stand-alone databases can be linked, which would make it possible both to broaden and to deepen the analysis. The article has also highlighted an area of change that will directly influence land administration, particularly at the local level: this is the change brought about by the overall trend towards decentralization, which will result in expanding responsibilities of local governments for collection of land taxes as well as the use of revenues in management of natural resources (land being one of the most important). This is an area where Thailand, similar to other countries in the region, will face challenges in building capacity and developing a land and tenure database that is of practical value to support the work of local governments.
This article has made reference to the policy areas that are aimed at improving both land administration and the potential to maximize the utility of land resources to respond to social, economic and environmental concerns. Two recently launched policies, namely poverty alleviation and assets capitalization, highlight the shortcomings and the limited value of existing land and tenure data Systems. The ideal situation would be that existing land and tenure data could be readily accessed so that both policies can be launched with the minimal amount of effort to verify information. As with many other preceding policies, the time lag in implementing policies can often be traced back to the need to collect and verify information. This raises the question of the cost-effectiveness of public investments in land and tenure data and the limited practical value of the databases created, which results from having placed greater importance on the needs of institutions in having their own databases over considerations of what the data would be used for.
Despite the shortcomings illustrated above, investments made up to the present are far from wasted. What is required now are the extra efforts to link the databases and draw upon the wealth of information waiting to be analysed. There are three sets of databases that, if pooled together, could allow in-depth analysis both of cross-sectional and time series data. These are:
In developing a frame for the purpose of combining the variables from the various databases, the design should also anticipate the inclusion of the land information to be collected by local governments as part of their new assignments in land management. This database will contain information at the individual level on the number of parcels of land owned, rented or leased-out, as well as location, nature of land use and legal status. This proposed “integrated” land tenure database would be available from the village level, which could be aggregated to subdistrict, district, provincial and higher levels of analysis. The existence of such a database would be the means to understanding the “area-based dimension” of land tenure, as opposed to the “institutional-based dimension” of land tenure as in the current System.
It must be said, however, that what will be more difficult to mobilize to carry this proposal through is not those extra financial inputs, but rather the cooperation of the institutions involved. Ownership of information, including land and tenure information, is after ail an institutional power that public agencies would be less than willing to share.
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1 These observations are based on an ongoing study by O. Nabangchang-Srisawalak and E. Srisawalak, The development of land information and mechanisms for management of land resources at the local level, supported by the Thailand Research Fund.
2 This section is based on observations from an ongoing study by O. Nabangchang-Srisawalak and E. Srisawalak, The feasibility of capitalization of land resources within the framework of the assets capitalization policy, commissioned by the Assets Capitalization Bureau.