The Thai authorities in Isan, Thailand’s Northeast, have announced a plan to reforest extensive areas amid concerns from the poor, who fear that the policy might affect their livelihoods.
Boonsong Techamanisatit, Governor of the northeastern province of Sakon Nakhon, on Tuesday morning announced a new policy to reclaim about 15,700 rai (25.12 sq.km) of land in an attempt to reforest areas in Phu Phan National Park, Phu Pha Lek National Park, and other protected forests in the province.
After the announcement, about 400 military, police, and paramilitary officers of the province cut down rubber trees in a plantation in Waritchaphum District in Sakon Nakhon to demonstrate enactment of the policy.
Military, police, and paramilitary officers in Sakon Nakhon cut down rubber trees grown in protected areas on 2 June 2015
Boonsong pointed out that the execution of the reclamation plan will not affect the poor, but investors who have encroached into protected areas.
In response to the plan, Baramee Chairat, the coordinator of the Assembly of the Poor (AOP), urged the authorities to clarify and discuss the plan with local people who might be affected by the policy.
He mentioned that there is a thin line between ‘investors’ and the poor, who borrow money from private and state agencies in order to grow rubber trees as their main source of income. Therefore, many poor people might be affected by the policy.
Baramee added that the state agencies and local people should cooperate with each other in coming up with an inclusive policy to protect the forest.
Sakon Nakhon’s forest reclamation plan was concluded after a meeting between Governor Boonsong Techamanisatit, Maj Gen Kanok Phu-muang, the military chief of Sakon Nakhon, Amnot Jermloe, Director of the Sakon Nakhon Provincial Office of Natural Resources and the Environment, and other relevant public officials.
In June 2014, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued Order No. 64/2015 as a master plan for national reforestation.
According to the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) of the Northeast, since last year, 103 small-scale farmers have already been accused of encroaching on protected areas and almost 1,800 in the Northeast have now been prohibited from using their farmland and are about to receive court summons for alleged encroachment.
NGO-COD added that if this trend is allowed to continue, approximately 1.2 million people who are living on land that overlaps protected areas could be affected.