21 May 2024

UNESCO’s 43rd World Heritage Committee, meeting in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku, postponed consideration of Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan forest complex (KKFC) from Friday to today (July 6th) due to unresolved issues over the status of the Karen ethnic group living in the area.

Former Thai ambassador to France, and head of the Thai delegation at the World Heritage Committee meeting, Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow, explained to the meeting that Thailand has been making efforts to improve the laws on community rights to bring all communities up to the same standard.

It is reported that Myanmar has no further concerns, regarding the border demarcation, after the Thai government agreed to downsize the territory of the forest complex by about 15%.

The postponement is believed to have been due to a difference of opinion within the committee. Indonesia, China, Brazil and Cuba supported the Thai application, while Australia and Norway expressed concerns about the Karen human rights issue.

The Karen Network for Culture and Environment (KNCE) Tanaosri region released a statement appealing to the World Heritage Committee to guarantee their community rights.

They are asking the Thai government and World Heritage Committee to:

  • Authorize community-based management for 10 years of traditional rotational farming
  • Establish the Huai Krasu area as a government/community co-organized rotational farming research Center
  • Ensure self-determination for the Karen indigenous population
  • Embrace the traditional livelihoods and community and human rights of the Karen Community
  • The Karen Network for Culture and Environment (KNCE) Tanaosri region and Thai government shall be the co-nominator in proposing forest complex as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • The KNCE concludes the Karen community will not endorse Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex as a UNESCO World Heritage Site unless these requests are enacted.

A working group of six countries, comprising Indonesia, Australia, Norway, Cuba, Tunisia and Kuwait, was convened to discuss the Thai application and report to the meeting today whether more information or clarifications are needed from Thailand.

Thailand, through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, submitted a proposal for the KKFC to be declared a natural world heritage site. The nomination has been on the tentative list since February 7th 2011 under ‘Criteria X’, which requires the site to “contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.”

The KKFC covers a vast areas of Thailand’s Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, and Prachuap Kiri Khan Provinces

(Photos) We Love Kaeng Krachan Facebook page