11 July 2024

The Ministry of Natural Resources and The Environment are drafting two bills which seek to empower the director-general of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the National Park Committee to allow people in 2,700 local communities encroaching on 5.9 million rai of conserved forests to stay on and utilize the land to make a living.

The new measure represents a far cry from the long-held policy to evict forest settlers living in conserved forest which has often led to protests by the encroachers – many of whom claimed they have been living in the land before they were declared national parks or forest reserves.

According to one of the two bills, the 2,700 forest communities will be divided into four groups.

The first group are those located in the national forest reserves classified as Grades 3, 4 and 5 watershed areas and before June 30, 1998 will be allowed to stay legally and to work on their claimed land plots.

The second group concerns settlers who have been living in national forest reserves classified as Grade 3,4 and 5 watershed areas after June 30, 1998. They will be permitted to stay on but will have to work in collective farm to be worked out by community leaders and officials.

The third group concerns settlements in Grades 1 and 2 watershed areas of national forest reserves before June 30, 1998. Collective farm and housing models will be introduced for the settlers under certain conditions such as they will be required to rehabilitate the degraded forest land and to involve in reforestation programme.

Four areas have been chosen for the launch of pilot projects of this new model of land allocation to solve the protracted problem of forest settlers. They are Na Haew, Mae Cham, Nan and Mae Hong Son.