Tribes in SE Asia prohibited from high-tech mapping of their land

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Tribes in Southeast Asia are being kept from using the latest high-tech gadgets to help them win land rights.

That's the outcry from activist groups that have been helping indigenous communities mix computers and handheld navigation devices with paints, yarn, and cardboard to make simple but accurate three-dimensional terrain models.

Several tribes have already used such models, based on data from geographic information systems (GIS), to defend their territories from developers making claims via modern legal systems.

But in Malaysia and the Philippines, the practice—dubbed participatory GIS—has sparked a legal backlash, activists say.

For example, Philippine lawmakers have changed an existing law so that only officially recognized engineers "could do anything related to measuring space," said Dave De Vera, director of the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development.

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