People living in national parks have denounced the national park and wildlife protection bills, saying they violate community rights.
Leaders of communities which are members of the Land Reform Network of Isaan (LRNI) and members of the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) on 4 June 2017 gathered at a public forum held by the LRNI at Nong Bua Rawe District, Chaiyaphum Province, to discuss the new bills on national parks and wildlife protection.
The bills have already been approved by the National Reform Council to replace the 1961 National Park Act and the 1992 Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act. Both are now being considered by the National Legislative Assembly.
Panudej Kerdmali, Secretary-General of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, said at the forum that both bills are problematic because of the lack of public participation in the drafting process, adding that both bills aim at giving more authority to state agencies while ignoring the role of communities in managing and preserving the forest.
He pointed out that under the National Park Bill, people already living within national parks have to obtain permission from the Deputy-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. The permission needs to be renewed every five years, but the total period of settlement cannot exceed 20 years.
P-Move Coordinator Boon Sae-Jung agreed that the bills do not take into account community rights, adding that people living in the forest should be permitted to manage their own natural resources while taking a role in protecting the forest and wildlife.
The voices of communities in national park areas must be heard during the process of drafting new laws, said Boon.
Nitaya Muangklang, a local community leader from one of six villages in Chaiyaphum affected by the junta’s ‘return the forest’ policy, said the authorities should not overlook the role of local communities in protecting the forest as they are the ones who benefit from its resources.
The community leader is facing charges of encroachment along with 14 other local people and said the authorities should reconsider the ‘return the forest’ policy as it has affected many forest communities nationwide, adding that the new bills could worsen the problem.
The Forestry Department reclaims Karen farmland in Mae Ngao National Park and puts up a sign reads ‘This land is reclaimed on 24 July 2014, acre: 6-3-19, case: 106/2014. The authority reclaims this plot of land and no one can possess or reserve it’ (file photo)
Read related news: Investors in, poor out: junta’s land policy after 3 years in power