Forest encroachment at Thap Lan puts tigers at risk
Park at risk of being delisted from the world heritage list
Forest encroachment at Thap Lan National Park in Prachin Buri – the heartland of Thailand’s tiger population – has become so severe that Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa is considering the possibility of new borders being drawn up.
“I’m confident the government won’t be disadvantaged by using forest borderlines to solve this problem inside the park. We would accept any borderline that ends the encroachment problem.”
Forest, forest, burning bright
Throughout Thailand, tigers have been driven to extinction. Until recently, there was only one known viable population of tigers in the country, along its western border with Myanmar. Then, in 2017, a population of at least 18 cats was found in Thap Lan National Park. Khao Yai National Park next door lost its tigers due to poaching.
The state’s attempts to re-demarcate the borderlines of Thap Lan National Park is yet another matter of preoccupation by Thailand’s all-purpose supergrass Chuvit Kamolvisit.
Chuvit claimed that state authorities were planning to use new forest borderlines to scale down the forest zone inside Thap Lan National Park.
If that happens, resort operators currently inside the park – and the source of the problem – would benefit. If their resort areas fall outside the area of the park after the rezoning, then unbridled and intrusive development will break out in the area.
Internal conflict behind forest encroachment at Thap Lan
Chuvit also raised the issue of a conflict between the Department of National Parks and the Agricultural Land Reform Office, which are at odds over national parks nationwide.
Chuwit claims the DNP wants to preserve national park status for the large tracts of land it manages, but agriculture reformers want to see more given to landless farmers, though not to resort owners who encroach illegally on parkland.
When questioned by the media, Varawut insisted that as far as the state was concerned, anyone illegally encroaching on forest land can never gain the right to possess that land. Land rights can only be given to those who were staying on the land before any national park was formed.
Prayut to decide on forest encroachment at Thap Lan
On Thursday, the national committee on land policy chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will determine whether new forest borderlines completed in the year 2000 should decide an individual’s right to the controversial forest land.
Damrong Pidech, Forest Conservation Party-list MP, said if the committee decides to use the new border, the park will lose more than 30,000 hectares of land while 38 land encroachers who have not been taken to court will walk free.
“You [Gen Prayut] didn’t clearly state the land would be granted to the really poor, but instead vaguely said it would be given to people to earn a living.”
Damrong also called on the public to be aware that Thap Lan National Park was part of the country’s largest forest complex and is at risk of being delisted from the world heritage list if the changes go ahead.
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