Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MY PHNOM PENH: Ian Thomas, cartographer



MY PHNOM PENH: Ian Thomas, cartographer

Briton Ian Thomas has been in Cambodia since 2001, when he came to map land mines for the Halo Trust in Siem Reap.
Briton Ian Thomas has been in Cambodia since 2001, when he came to map land mines for the Halo Trust in Siem Reap.

MY PHNOM PENH: Ian Thomas, cartographer

Briton Ian Thomas has been in Cambodia since 2001, when he came to map land mines for the Halo Trust in Siem Reap. Now he maps water resources for his own research group, Mekong Consultants. He chatted with Brent Crane about some of the best Cambodia data maps around 

Angelina Jolie Maps

Angelina Jolie Maps

When I first came to Cambodia, Halo Trust had this cupboard of maps. The villagers would hand draw the landmine maps of the area and maybe if there was an accident, they would draw a skull and crossbones on the map. Where they found a mine or UXO, they would mark it. This is the product of those maps. We got money from Google to put it in there and Angelina Jolie gave lots of money as well. Lots of people gave lots of money. When I first came to Cambodia, it was 2,000 or so people getting hurt every year from UXOs and now it’s dropped down to about 100 to 200. So we’ve done something right. The great thing about landmines is, once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Regional drought vulnerability map

Regional drought  vulnerability map

The current drought situation is a very important concern of mine right now. This map from the Earth Observatory at NASA clearly shows that the current heat wave is smashing records, and that this drought therefore is really up there as a contender for the “worst drought ever” title. Those dark reds in Cambodia indicate that it was almost the most-affected country in all of South Asia and Southeast Asia. A +12C anomaly above the long-term average for April 2016 is really pretty darn extreme. And Wednesday, even the Thai Meteorological Department finally started to get pessimistic about any immediate heat wave relief or the monsoons coming soon.

MangoMap

MangoMap

MangoMap is the software you use to put maps online. To get maps to people is always the big difficulty. In the old days, you had to print them. The internet made things better, but with maps, you need to be able to put it all on a website, and there’s software to do that. The biggest one is Esri. That’s what I used for 20 years, GIS Esri software. But Chris Brown, he’s my next-door neighbour, made this software that’s quite easy to use. Tens of thousands of people around the world are using it. You have some GIS data, you put it up there and you make it pretty.

Economic Land Concession Maps

Economic Land Concession Maps

Licadho picks up the information from every source they can for these maps. There’s Licadho and there’s Open Development Cambodia, another NGO, and they’ve also published the data and made these maps. ODC tries to be apolitical. It just publishes. Licadho is very political. It’s not just ELCs but protected areas, too. Both Licadho and ODC. It’s a joint effort, and it actually helps everything. Freedom of information is good because it helps people to plan better, organise the economy, plan for disasters and God knows what else. What’s the point of data sitting in some government cupboard where nobody can access it? Open Development Cambodia is actually helping the development of Cambodia!

AsiaRice Sentinel Satellite Map 

AsiaRice Sentinel Satellite Map 

This one is very good because it is the first free radar map. Radar is great because it goes through clouds and it’s very good for mapping crops. I’m actually more of a remote-sensing person. I handle the satellite imagery. It’s using the satellites to take pictures and interpret the pictures. There’s a whole trick of ‘what do those colours and shapes mean?’ What are you actually seeing? Right now, for example, Sentinel could be used to see how much water is left to use in the ponds. And then you could plan to take your trucks to the ponds where there’s still water. All this could be done. It just needs some motivation from the Cambodian side.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen warmly welcomed by president Biden

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, as ASEAN chair, and other ASEAN leaders were warmly welcomed by US president Joe Biden as the ASEAN-US summit May 12-13 kicked off today in Washington. “This evening, I welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for the first time in

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen invites US president to attend summit in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen personally invited US President Joe Biden to attend the ASEAN-US Summit which is set to be held in Cambodia in November, as ASEAN and the US are expected to upgrade their strategic partnership to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’, according to Prime

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub