The Lands Department has proposed amendments to its land-use laws, in regard to issuance of land deeds, which would result in more thorough scrutiny of the use of vague Sor Khor 1 documents used to claim possession over state land.
A letter from the Land Department’s legal bureau has been circulating within the department and also forwarded to a former reformer of the now-defunct National Reform Steering Assembly, which pushed forward the issue in its forest reform expediting plan last year. The idea behind the letter, to protect state land from false claims using the Sor Khor 1 documents, was approved in September by the department’s law scrutiny committee and its director general.
The department is now in the process of forwarding the proposal to concerned bodies, including the Cabinet as well as the Council of State. The move, it noted, followed what suggested by the NRSA’s forest reform expediting committee.
Under the committee’s plan, Article 8 paragraph 4 under the “land law” section would be amended to authorise additional bodies to work alongside the Lands Department to oversee issuing of land deeds. They would together endorse before the courts the issuance of land deeds to individuals who had proved their rights to make claims to occupied land through a Sor Khor 1 document process.
The Sor Khor 1 is an official claim certificate issued to citizens shortly after the 1954 land law was promulgated to confirm their right to claims to occupied land plots. However, the documents marked land plot boundaries in a vague manner. For instance, it might say only that the northern boundary of the land plot is close to a stream.
Six decades later, the documents are often being cunningly used to exaggerate the extent and boundaries of a land claim, or claim multiple different plots. The misrepresentation is a particular problem where forest lands are concerned, resulting in loss of public land and misuse of what should be protected parklands. The processes of exaggerating the land claims are known as swollen Sor Khor1 and flying Sor Khor 1.
As there are around 4.25 million claim documents lined up for processing for land deed issuance, the Sor Khor 1 document has become a major concern for those trying to prevent false claims over state land.
Assistant Professor Khwanchai Duangsathaporn, the ex-NRSA reformer, and now a member of the natural resources and environment reform committee, saw the pending legal amendment as a boon for the country’s efforts to protect its vulnerable forests. The professor posted on his Facebook, saying it’s another step forward in forest reform. The issue has also been addressed as part of the new natural resources and environment reform plan, about to be submitted to the government this month, he added.