Sipo Waterfall residents fear repercussion as national park declaration looms

Residents of Narathiwat's Sipo village are concerned that their centuries-old community may be forcibly relocated following a government declaration that Sipo Waterfall is a national park. Their concerns have been heightened by state authorities, who have recently been prohibiting them from harvesting rubber and durian on the village’s plantation.
 

 

They have had little communication from the National Park Department. Villagers claim they were unaware of any stakeholder hearing.  They only knew of an event hosted by a civil society group on November 10 to discuss local land issues. They emphasise that their village is centuries old, as evidenced by their 200-year-old durian trees.
 

 

According to residents, the area has in the past been consigned to external investors for exploitation.  Most villagers lack land tenure documents beyond Sor Kor Nung (S.K. 1) forms.[1]  They also claim that until recently, they had no way to obtain land rights documents.
 

 

Baramee Chaiyarat, a representative from the Assembly of the Poor, informed villagers that the establishment of Sipo Waterfall National Park requires a precise boundary map and local collaboration He suspects that a collaborative boundary delineation did not occur and that a park committee to work with the locals was never formed.
 

 

He worries that if the park is established, it may result in land seizures and restrictions on villagers land use.  Article 64 of the National Park Act 2019 empowers the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation to survey public land cultivation within 240 days of the law's enactment and provide assistance to those who have lived in the area without land titles.  This might not apply to Sipo, however.  Authorities have already prohibited the cutting of ageing rubber trees for replanting. Moreover, they have not received any support from the Rubber Authority of Thailand.
 

 

A half a century ago, the villagers actively participated in clearing the area and constructing buildings.  They hoped the community would benefit when Sipo Waterfall became a tourist attraction. They never anticipated that the area would become a national park covering a vast expanse that overlaps with village fruit orchards and rubber plantations.

 

 

 

[1] (Note: S.K. 1 is a land possession notification allowing occupation and utilization with unconfirmed rights, transferable through simple establishment or inheritance, potentially upgradable to higher titles with court approval. It hasn't been issued since 1972.)

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