National Office of Buddhism asked to warn temples not to fell precious trees for commercial gain

The Royal Forest Department has sought urgent cooperation from the National Office of Buddhism to remind temples that the department’s recent decision, to allow the felling or pruning of precious trees on privately-owned land plots, was intended to encourage people to grow precious trees for commercial purposes, but did not apply to fully-grown precious trees, some of which are over 100 years old.

The department’s alert came after it discovered that several temples had allowed loggers to fell precious trees in temple grounds in exchange for money.

Mr. Atthapol Charoenchansa, director-general of the Royal Forest Department, told Thai PBS that it is a shame that several precious 100 year old trees, such as Yang Na, Takien and teak, were felled with the consent of the temples.

He said that, in some cases, people in the communities around the temples, and some temple committee members, disagreed with the felling of the trees and have lodged complaints with the Royal Forest Department.

Meanwhile, Mr. Chiwaparb Chiwatham, chief of the Office of Forest Protection and Forest Fire Control, clarified that temples can legally fell precious trees on temple grounds, in accordance with the Forest Act, but it would be better to save the trees and temples should not be commercially-minded.

Thai PBS reported that some influential local figures had arbitrarily felled precious temple trees despite protests from temple abbots.

The Royal Forest Department’s Payak Prai unit, and military personnel from the Internal Security Operations Command, recently seized 87 Yang Na logs found at a saw mill in Banpot Pisai district of the central province of Nakhon Sawan.

Two Chinese nationals, who claimed to be the caretakers of the logs when the officials raided the mill, were arrested on charges of illegal possession of logs from precious trees.

The Chinese reportedly told the forest officials that they bought the logs from a Thai man in Mae Wong district, who claimed to have Yang Na trees on his land.  When officials went the man’s plot of land, however, they discovered that the Yang Na trees felled were not on his land.

A forest official said that unscrupulous loggers have taken advantage of the lifting of the ban, on the felling of precious trees on privately owned land, by cutting them down in forest reserves, claiming that they originated from privately owned land.


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