11 July 2024

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patcharawat Wongsuwan said today that about 8,000 hectares in the Tap Lan National Park, currently occupied by ordinary settlers, must be carved out of the park and distributed to the settlers so they can make a living.

On March 14 last year, the Cabinet endorsed a proposal by the National Land Policy Committee (NLPC) to transfer a total of 42,400 hectares in the national park to the settlers, many of whom are resort operators who occupy the lion’s share of the 42,400 hectares.

Tap Lan National Park covers 208,000 hectares in Pak Thongchai, Wang Nam Khiao, Khon Buri and Soeng Sang districts of Nakhon Ratchasima and Nadee district of Prachin Buri.

A public hearing, to gauge the opinions of stakeholders about the NLPC’s proposal, was held last weekend in Nakhon Ratchasima, with most of the land settlers agreeing with the proposal.

Patcharawat said the public hearing process will be concluded within a month, after which the National Parks Committee will finalise the land distribution issue, adding that anyone who disagrees with the proposal can voice their opinion, which will be considered later.

Meanwhile, Atthaphon Charoenchansa, director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said the department and the Office of Land Reform will examine the qualifications of the settlers to determine their land occupation rights.

He said some of the settlers had been on the land for a long time before it was incorporated into the national park, while the others are newcomers who bought the land from other settlers.

Krisada Boonchai, secretary-general of the Assembly of Private Organisations for the Protection of the Environment and Natural Resources, said changes of forest policies by previous governments and their failures to address the forest encroachment problem have resulted in the current land conflicts between the people and the state.

He asked why officials of the Forest and National Parks departments did not take appropriate actions against those who encroached on the land in Tap Lan National Park to build resorts and hotels.

Chokedee Poralokanon, a former official of the Wildlife and Plant Conservation Foundation of Thailand, said that the land conflict began during the government of late Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda, when former communist insurgents and their families were resettled in Tap Lan forest under the 66/23 pacification policy, regardless of the fact that some of the land had already been occupied prior to the land being declared a national park in 1981.