#SaveSabWaiVillagers FROM GOING TO JAIL!

THE UNFAIR CRIMINALIZATION OF 14 VILLAGERS UNDER THAILAND'S "FOREST RECLAMATION POLICY"

In Sab Wai village, which is located in the Chaiyaphum province, 14 villagers have been unfairly convicted of trespassing, utilizing, and clearing land in Sai Thong national park.

They are unjustly criminalized under Thailand's 2014 Forest Reclamation Policy and NCPO Orders 64 and 66 of 2014. 

Nittaya Muangklang, the community leader and brave Woman Human Rights Defender, heard the Supreme Court's verdict of her cases on 3rd of March, 2021. (See below for more information)

Sab Wai villagers are not the only ones affected by NCPO Orders 64 and 66 of 2014 and the government’s forest reclamation policy. As of today, there are over 25,000 cases in total. According to P-Move, most of the cases are poor villagers and indigenous peoples being charged.

 

But most families (like Sab Wai Villagers) have been living and making their livelihood in the forest for generations, inheriting valuable knowledge about their own environment. Their way of living actually helps preserve forests.

Therefore, the outcome of the case will become a standard of how similar cases in Thailand will be ruled.

Although the government discloses the number of total encroachment cases since the Forest Reclamation Policy was issued in 2014, they still refuse to reveal to the public how many of those cases were against villagers and how many were actually against big businesses.

But it is actually the government's duty to provide all the information as it is every citizens' right to know and to access the information, according to the Official Information Act 1997.

Thailand is a participant in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), a global partnership funded by the World Bank, aiming to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. To help achieve this goal, the Thai government issued the ‘Forest Reclamation Policywhich was based on NCPO Orders 64 and 66 of 2014. The policy was meant to stop the misuse of forest land by large businesses, but instead, small communities with mainly poor people and indigenous peoples were forced to return their land.

Instead of action being taken against large businesses who were harmful for the forest, the forest department has been evicting villagers and taking away their land. This is happening despite the fact that NCPO order 66/2014 states that "all operations must not impact the poor who have been living in the land" and that

However, the policy was unfairly applied to them, and the NCPO order 66/2014 failed to protect them, partly because the authorities have been using the ambiguity of the term "poor" to their benefit.

Even worse, for the 14 Sab Wai Villagers, they were manipulated and threatened into signing the documents to give away their land. 

This was a clear case of manipulation. Under Section 164 of the Civil Code "a declaration of intention is voidable if made under duress.", the signed paper cannot be valid in any way.

Manushya Foundation provides continuous support to the Sab Wai case through financial support to the villagers, monitoring the court hearings, visiting the villagers in prison to ensure proper detention procedures and raising national and international awareness of the case. We won't give up. We will fight back until the Thai government is held accountable and the 14 villagers are given justice.  

You can also download the profiles and summary of the charges faced by the Sab Wai villagers here:

#SaveNittaya Petition - Banner.png

THANK YOU! Your support has helped Nittaya from not being jailed!

 

Thailand Supreme Court has found Nittaya guilty with a suspended jail term sentence of 3 years and she was put on probation, with a 20,000 THB fine. Nittaya is free, she doesn’t have to go to jail! BUT despite the good news, the Supreme Court still ruled her guilty of encroaching forest land. It means that Nittaya will still have to be evicted from her land. Since the Supreme Court's verdict is final, what we can do now for Nittaya (and the 13 Sab Wai villagers) is seeking reparation and compensation for them as they have been unfairly jailed, and for their loss of livelihoods as they will be losing everything. Watch the video below and check here to learn more!

Thailand is a participant in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), a global partnership, funded by the World Bank, aiming to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. 

 

In 2013, Thailand submitted a proposal to the World Bank to receive a USD 3.6 million grant for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Readiness from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).

 

In January 2014, the World Bank decided to allocate the funds to Thailand.

 

In May 2014, the military took over Thailand, headed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

 

In July 2014, the military enacted the Forest Reclamation Policy to demonstrate its capacity to ‘mitigate climate change’. This policy entered into force to operationalize NCPO orders 64 and 66/2014, passed in June 2014. This false climate change solution is supposed to arrest capitalist investors and big businesses responsible for polluting the air and damaging the environment – But in practice, on the ground, the military government has been targeting the poor, those who actually possess little amount of land and who depend on the forest to survive. These villagers and indigenous peoples are GUARDIANS of the forest, as their way of living and cultivations protect the environment. On the other hand, the same military government is granting huge amounts of land to big businesses destroying the environment. 

 

In 2016, the World Bank made the funds available to Thailand for withdrawal, ignoring the bad implementation of the Forest Reclamation Policy and concerns shared by land-dependent communities. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is the state agency responsible for the management of the grant, even though in the past it has been known for burning people’s shelters and threatening them, and has been involved in land disputes with indigenous communities in Lipe, Adang, and Rawee islands.  The World Bank claims its fund is to: support REDD+ Strategy Development and the safeguards framework, reinforce institutional capacity, identify actions to address natural resource rights or governance issues. But we haven’t seen any of that: all we have seen is forest officers having their capacity built to go after the poor and indigenous peoples even more, and poor villagers evicted from their land. 

 

Under such circumstances, activities sponsored by the World Bank are likely to cause more harm in the future and lead to impoverishment of rural communities, contradicting the World Bank’s mission to reduce poverty.

SUBMISSION OF URGENT ACTION TO 7 UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS

A complaint (submission of information for urgent action related to alleged human rights violations) has been submitted to 7 United Nations Special Rapporteurs requesting their urgent intervention to stop the ongoing unfair criminalisation of the 14 Sab Wai villagers and to call on the Thai Government to revise its controversial forest conservation policies hurting communities rather than targeting capitalist investors undermining the environment.

Updates were also shared with the UN Special Rapporteurs regarding the monitoring of court hearings on 25 June, 2-3 July 2019, prison visits to the imprisoned Sab Wai villagers and Appeals to the Supreme Court:

UN COMMUNICATION FROM UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS

Through Manushya Foundation's international advocacy efforts, the United Nations sent a complaint to the Thai government on August 19th 2019, questioning it for the alleged human rights violations and unfair criminalization faced by the 14 Sab Wai villagers. 

THE THAI GOVERNMENT'S REPLY

On June 10th 2020, the Thai government sent a disappointing reply to the United Nations, totally ignoring the threats and intimidations faced by the 14 villagers, with some forced by forestry officers to sign documents to vacant their land. Instead, the reply praises the government's little effort to protect human rights defenders through a 'handbook'; but nothing specific to protect the 14 Sab Wai villagers.

OUR NEWS RELEASES AND JOINT STATEMENTS:

SUMMARIES OF THE COURT HEARINGS

  • Court hearing of 15 May 2019English / Thai 

    • Ms. Nittaya Muangklang

  • Court hearing of 4 June 2019:  English / Thai

    • Mrs. Seenuan Phasang

  • Court hearing of 5 June 2019English / Thai 

    • Ms. Nittaya Muangklang

  • Court hearing of 12 June 2019: English / Thai

    • Ms. Pattama Komet

    • Ms. Sunee Nalin 

    • Mrs. Suphaphorn Seesuk​

  • Court hearing of 18 June 2019English / Thai

    • Mrs. Sakl Prakit

  • Court Hearing of 25 June 2019English / Thai

    • Mrs. Thongpan Monggang 

    • Mr. Wanchai Arphonkaeo 

    • Mr. Samon Somchit 

  • Court hearing of 2 July 2019English / Thai

    • Mr. Put Sukbongkot 

    • Mr. Sompitr Taennok (for his first case)

  • Court hearing of 3 July 2019English / Thai

    • Ms. Narisara Muangklang 

    • Ms. Suwalee Phongam 

    • Mr. Suwit Rattanachaisi

    • Mr. Sompitr Taennok (for his second case)

​​INFORMATION ON SUPREME COURT APPEALS AND BAILS:

  • Enforcement of the appeal court judgment as of 7 July 2019English / Thai (Mrs. Seenuan Phasang)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the bail of 3 WHRDs as of 19 July 2019English / Thai (Mrs Suphaporn Seesuk, Mrs Seenuan Phasang and Ms Pattama Komet)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the bail of 2 land rights defenders as of 25 July 2019English / Thai (Ms. Sunee Nalin and Mr. Put Sukbongkot)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the release from jail of 1 WHRD as of 31 July 2019: English / Thai (Ms. Nittaya Muangklang)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the release from jail of 3 WHRDs as of 13 August 2019English / Thai (Ms. Suwalee Phongam, Ms. Narisara Muangklang, and Mrs. Thongpan Monggang)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the release from jail of 1 HRD as of 26 August 2019English / Thai (Mr. Sompitr Teannok)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the release from jail of 1 HRD as of 29 August 2019: English / Thai (Mr. Suwit Rattanachaisi)​

THE WORKING GROUP TO AMPLIFY ADVOCACY EFFORTS IN SUPPORT OF THE 14 HRDs

A Working Group comprising human rights organisations and academics has been established in support of the 14 HRDs. It includes the following: 

  • Manushya Foundation

  • Isaan Land Reform Network (ILRN)​

  • Focus on the Global South (FOCUS)

  • iLAW

  • Protection International (PI)

  • Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University

  • Rangsit University

 

As part of the Working Group, Manushya Foundation won’t stop fighting until the Thai government stops criminalising communities and human rights defenders and continues violating land rights under the pretext of protecting the forests, when local communities know better than anyone else how to take care of the forests and protect the environment.

In order to address the damage caused by legislations and policy on forest reclamation that affect the 14 villagers and land rights defenders of Sab Wai village, we believe government authorities must constantly be urged to:

  1. Immediately drop all criminal and civil charges against the 14 villagers for the legitimate use of their land;

  2. Stop, without further delay, the abuse of forest conservation laws and policies, to evict local communities and individuals from land they have been living on for generations;

  3. Address the impact of NCPO Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014 that disproportionately impacts the marginalised and poor local communities and their right to land, right to work and earn a livelihood, instead of targeting investors and large-scale businesses;

  4. Provide a fair remedy and compensation to those who have been affected by the unjust use of the law, policies, NCPO Orders, and for protecting their fundamental rights under these;

  5. Guarantee the prompt and effective implementation of the Sustainable Land and Natural Resources Management Plan, inclusive of community participation, which was approved by the Provincial Working Group (created to resolve land issues taking place in Sai Thong National Park) in March 2018.

While the working group established to support the Land Rights Defenders was able to secure sufficient funds to support their cost of living while they were in prison and their families left behind,  and was also able to secure bail funds from the Justice Fund, please consider making a financial contribution to support the legal processes at the Supreme Court level (legal empowerment of communities, legal strategy workshops, court hearings and lawyers fee).    ​

 

Bank Details for donation

  • Name Bank: Krungthai Bank, Nongbuarahew Branch

  • Account number: 335-0-34997-8 

  • Account names (members of Isaan Land Reform Network): Panida Thanongped; Kaewfah Aphonkaew; Suchit Roo-ngarn; Siriwan Srikhammuan; and Sa-gnuan Laung-aram

THAILAND'S FALSE CLIMATE SOLUTION & THE MISUSE OF FOREST CONSERVATION POLICIES TO CRIMINALISE RURAL COMMUNITIES RATHER THAN CAPITALIST INVESTORS

Thailand is one of the developing countries participating in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), which is a global partnership of governments, businesses, civil society and indigenous peoples focused on reducing emissions from deforestations and forest degradation, forest carbon stock conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (activities commonly referred to as REDD+).[ii] The FCPF hosted by the World Bank has created a framework and processes for REDD+ readiness, which helps participating countries get ready for future systems of financial incentives for REDD+.[iii] Thailand was selected as one of the REDD participant country in 2009. Its REDD+ readiness preparation proposal was approved in 2013 with a condition to undertake additional consultations with the concerned stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities that have been monitoring the REDD+ implementation in the country.[iv] Subsequently, in 2014, the Forestry Master Plan, the ‘Forest Reclamation Policy’, was issued based on NCPO Order 64/2014.

1. THE FORESTRY MASTER PLAN: "FOREST RECLAMATION POLICY" AS A STRATEGY TO EVICT THE POOR


With this policy, the Thai government, specifically the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE),[v] and the Royal Forest Department (RFD), aims to combat problems such as forest destruction and trespassing on public land, while intending to increase Thailand’s national forest area by 26 million Rai or upto 40% of the total area of the country. The Master Plan was around the discourse that commercial investors’ exploitation of Thailand’s natural resources is responsible for deforestation and must be stopped. The government appeared sincere in its intentions to target only wealthy investors after it released Order 66/2014, a supplemental directive which states that government operations must not impact the poor. However, implementation of the Master Plan has overwhelmingly targeted impoverished villagers and indigenous peoples who lived on their lands for decades as “investors” or alleged that local communities were being funded by wealthy investors, while it was found that in ISOC’s operations, no organisations or capitalists have been arrested or charged for conducting illegal logging or encroachment.[vi] This has resulted in a complete disregard of the protection measures set out by Order 66/2014. The Royal Forest Department does so by misusing laws and policy by confiscating land and evicting villagers from their land, by enforcing various forests and national park related laws such as (a) the Forest Act B.E. 2484, (b) the National Reserved Forests Act B.E. 2507, and (c) the National Park Act B.E. 2504.

2. FOCUS ON THE CONTROVERSIAL NCPO ORDERS OPERATIONALIZING THE FOREST RECLAMATION POLICY


To operationalise the forest reclamation policy, orders were also passed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) consisting of the military junta. The two most relevant orders include NCPO Order No. 64/2014 and 66/2014.

  • NCPO Order 64/2014 related to the suppression and cessation of encroachment and destruction of forest resources, provides that authorized state agencies are to suppress violations and arrest those who encroach on, seize, possess, destroy, or act in any manner that may cause damage to the forest, specifically on protected land. The aim of the NCPO Order 64/2014 is to stop deforestation which has been caused by commercial investors’ exploitation of Thailand’s natural resources.

  • NCPO Order 66/2014 suggests that the primary targets of these measures must be investors or large-scale outside developers, whereas the poor, landless and those who have settled in the land before it was declared as a protected area, should not be affected by the NCPO order 64/2014. NCPO Order 66/2014 establishes a list of such people who are permitted to use the land. The Order 66/2014 appeared to focus only on wealthy investors. However, during its implementation of the Forestry Master Plan, the government has persistently identified impoverished villagers who lived on their lands for decades as “investors” or alleged villagers as being funded by wealthy investors, resulting in the loss of protection as set out by Order 66/2014. Five strategies have been followed by the NCPO to evict people, namely stopping illegal logging, stopping forest encroachment, seizing encroached areas, destroying villagers produce while filing lawsuits, and conducting area surveys.

3. DISCREPANCIES IN THE APPLICATION OF NCPO ORDER 66/2014, MEANT TO PROTECT POOR PEOPLE FROM BEING EVICTED FOR FOREST LAND


In order to target HRDs protecting their land and protesting against land evictions, the government has purposely excluded villagers from the protection guaranteed to poor people under NCPO Order 66/2014. The Sai Thong National Park case clearly demonstrates the discrepancies in the application of NCPO Order 66/2014: the Royal Forest Department (RFD) said that NCPO Order 64/2014 is meant to target investors and NCPO Order 66/2014 is meant to exclude poor people from NCPO Order 64/2014 and protect them from being sued by the government. The definition of poor, according to the Royal Forest Department, is not properly defined and depends on the appreciation of the Thai authorities and judges. In the case of the 14 Sab Wai villagers currently prosecuted, the judges did not consider them as poor because they were allegedly owners of 2 to 3 plots of land[vii] but villagers find themselves unfairly targeted as they are only small-scale farmers. This highlights the unequal application of the NCPO Order 66/2014, considering that those who were supposed to be protected, not only lost their land but also were found guilty of the charges of trespassing, having to pay a fine of between 40,000 THB to 1,6587,211 THB, together with jail time ranging from 5 months 10 days to 4 years. Finally, their criminalisation further put them in poverty situation, leaving their families, elders and children behind, with insufficient financial resources and care. 

4. UNLAWFUL USAGE OF THE CABINET RESOLUTION OF 30 JUNE 1998 WHICH IS BY ITSELF FLAWED IN ITS IMPLEMENTATION


Another reason why the 14 Sab Wai villagers were declined protection under NCPO Order 66/2014 is because the appeal judgment ruled that the villagers had newly moved into the area. The court concluded that the villagers had no proof that they had lived in the national park area before its’ establishment in 1992 because their names are not listed in the survey, which was conducted under the Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998. Even though it is stipulated in NCPO Order 66/2014 that an investigation and rights-proving procedure would take place for new encroachers, verification methods of communities’ land rights, such as examining the traditional, cultural, and historical context, have been neglected by law enforcers[viii] and instead, the Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998 was utilised as a land-rights identification method. Under the Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998, aerial photographs and satellite images were taken and surveys amongst villagers living in national parks and reserved forest areas have been conducted. Based on the images and surveys, a list was created and those included in it were allowed to make a living in national reserved forest and national park areas.[ix] The lawyer, Mr. Somnuek Tumsupap, pointed out that the 14 prosecuted villagers of Sab Wai villagers were not on the list because survey data is missing, and even though they are heirs to the land, their names are not included on survey documents. This is due to the flawed implementation of Cabinet Resolution 30 June 1998 as: (1) authorities have limited time available to conduct surveys; (2) the number of personnel conducting surveys is limited, and (3) the budget allocated for surveying is insufficient. Therefore, in the case of the Sab Wai villagers, when authorities ran out of funds to survey, they did not continue the surveys but allowed villagers to continue living on the land.[x] The villagers also pointed out that surveys were not conducted fairly. Villagers had approached surveying rangers on various occasions to ensure that their land was surveyed and they would be included in the list, but the rangers made excuses not to survey their land and told them that another survey would take place after four years.

The lawyer of the 14 Sab Wai villagers, Mr. Somnuek Tumsupap also identified another flaw by questioning the usage of the Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998 as a land-rights identification method because the usage of this Resolution is not specified in either NCPO Order 64/2014 or 66/2014. NCPO Order 66/2014 states that an investigation and right-proving procedure would take place for new encroachers but in the case of the Sab Wai villagers, officials have chosen to utilise the Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998 as a land-rights identification method. According to Mr. Somnuek, the Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998 can only be utilised if the NCPO Orders require to do so. In the case of the Sab Wai villagers, the court has interpreted and applied the NCPO Orders as the primary source on which the charges are based. The NCPO Orders overrode the Cabinet Resolution and thus the intentions of the NCPO Orders should be followed, with (1) villagers being protected from eviction under NCPO Order 66/2014 of the Forest Reclamation Policy and (2) a right-proving procedure taking place. Mr. Somnuek Tumsupap had attempted to use this argument to fight the cases of the villagers, but it was not considered by the court.

These existing laws, policies and NCPO Orders place limitations on community rights, while restricting land rights, management and utilisation of natural resources by local people, especially in protected areas. In this manner, authorities enforce strict legislative and implement coercive measures against those who have settled and sustained their livelihoods in forest areas. By December 2015, Order No. 64/2014 had impacted nearly 1,800 families, mostly in the north and northeast, home to large indigenous populations. At that date, 681 cases filed against exercise of powers under Order No. 64/2014 towards local and indigenous communities were recorded, and 168 of these cases amounted to judicial harassment.[xi] Further, since the 2014 military coup, there are at least 226 women human rights defenders (WHRDs) from rural areas who have been subjected to judicial harassment by State and non-state actors.[xii]

5. ABOLITION OF NCPO ORDERS 64/2014 & 66/2014 BUT MISUSE OF FOREST CONSERVATION POLICIES WILL REMAIN WITH CONTROVERSIAL NATIONAL PARK ACT OF 2019


An important development with respect to the law used to criminalise the 14 villagers has been the repeal of 70 NCPO Orders including NCPO Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014 on 9 July 2019.[xiii] These orders were withdrawn using the newly issued NCPO Order 9/2019 by the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-ocha in his capacity as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). However, NCPO 64/2014 and 66/2014 will continue to criminalise the legitimate actions of communities and individuals as: (1) This new order will take some time to come into effect, during which time the NCPO Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014 will continue to be misused; and (2) The content of the NCPO Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014, particularly their negative aspects have already been embedded into other laws including the new amendment to the National Parks Act of 2019.[xiv] [xv]

6. FOCUS ON THE NATIONAL PARK ACT 2019


In May 2019, the National Legislative Assembly in Thailand passed the National Parks Act 2019, which will be effective from November this year. This law is the continuity of NCPO orders 64/2014 and 66/2014 and is expected to affect the livelihoods of local communities, indigenous peoples and forest dwellers living adjacent and within national reserved forest areas and protected areas.

Article 65 of the new law allows communities who have traditionally lived in or near parks to access them and use some of the forest resources; however, the power to give permission to do so rests solely at the discretion of National Park authorities. Main concerns with the law are related to: 

  • Restrictions on the amount to be harvested by the communities allowed to live on the national park areas;

  • The use of natural and renewable resources from national parks can only be done legally through government-approved projects; therefore the process to obtain the approval might be arbitrary and complicated;

  • Forest officials will be provided with ‘search and destroy powers’ without the need to acquire court orders. Such powers are likely to result in forced evictions of communities and destroying of their properties, such as houses and crops;

  • The law will impose stricter penalties to further limit the rights of Thai farmers, indigenous peoples: under this new law, the penalties for those convicted of encroachment are much higher compared to the National Parks Act of 1961. Whereas in the National Parks Act of 1961, the maximum punishment for encroachment is 5 years of imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 20,000 Thai Baht, in the New National Parks Act of 2019, those convicted might face imprisonment not exceeding 20 years, and fines not exceeding 2 million Thai Baht.

  • The law will impose the use of Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998 to prove land rights of those living in reserved forest areas and national parks. As previously explained, the Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998 is problematic in its enforcement as forest officials tend to exclude community members who would need to be protected to remain on their lands. Additionally, it has been argued that the enforcement of the Resolution is flawed and has caused problems between authorities and local people. Communities’ rights to manage forests are not given importance by the Resolution, and on aerial photographs taken under the Resolution, it is almost impossible to determine traditional farms of indigenous peoples.[xvi].

Furthermore, imposing the strict usage of Cabinet Resolution of 30 June 1998 will prevent Thai courts from ordering forest agencies to abide by other Cabinet Resolutions which are more beneficial to local communities[xvii], such as the Cabinet Resolution of 3 August 2010. The Cabinet Resolution of 3 August 2010 reaffirms article 70 of the 2017 Constitution[xviii], and states that Karen people have the right to stay in their ancestral land and continue their traditional farm rotation system. Moreover, the Resolution prohibits arrests of indigenous Karen forest dwellers.[xix] The Supreme Court referred to this Cabinet Resolution of 3 August 2010 in the case regarding the eviction of villagers belonging to the traditional Karen community, residing in Kaeng Krachan National Park, in 2012. The Court concluded that the eviction of the villagers and the destruction of their property through the application of the National Parks Act of 1961, the Forest Act of 1941, and the National Reserved Forest Act of 1964, was in violation of the protection guaranteed under the Cabinet Resolution of 3 August 2010.[xx] 

Finally, the implementation of the Forest Mastery Plan and the NCPO Orders continue to be in the hands of the military, with the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), established under the Internal Security Act involved in enforcement.[xxi]

7. THE 20-YEAR NATIONAL STRATEGY: INCREASE THE COUNTRY'S FORESTED AREA TO 55 PERCENT BY 2037


As written in its 20-Year National Strategy, the Royal Thai Government (RTG) aims to increase the country’s forested area to 55 percent of the total Thai territory by 2037. The forested area will include 35 percent of natural forest; 15 percent of forest plantations, and 5 percent of recreational areas. [xxii] The RTG wishes to achieve this ambitious goal through the following strategies: (1) suppressing forest encroachment; (2) promoting the restoration of forested areas and the ecosystem; (3) communities’ participation in protecting forest resources and planting forests; (4) developing a tourism strategy to limit the number of tourists;[xxiii] (5) providing incentives to corporations doing business in the forest plantation industry;[xxiv] and (6) enhancing natural resources management by amending natural resources legislation.[xxv]

8. NEW FOREST PLANTATION MODEL


In 2019, the Royal Forest Department (RFD) noted that through its current model and budget it will not be possible to increase the country’s forested area to 55 percent by 2037. The department blamed this on landless villagers who occupied newly planted forests, leading to a decreased rate of forested area despite replantation efforts made by the Royal Forest Department. Therefore, the Royal Forest Department introduced a new forest plantation model through which the cost could be reduced to 1,000 THB per Rai[xxvi]  and more forested area could be created. According to the Director of the Royal Forest Department, this new forest plantation model would economically benefit communities; solve problems of landlessness, and reduce income inequality.[xxvii] Under the new model, the recently appointed military government introduced a land allocation scheme in which 1.21 million Rai of public land in degraded forests will be given to communities, to plant trees from which they will economically benefit. Communities who will be allocated land will be given sprouts and have to utilise 20 percent of their land to plant three types of trees: (1) native trees that they will not be allowed to cut; (2) economic trees that they can cut for personal use but must be replanted, and (3) edible trees.[xxviii] 

As noted, only 1.21 million Rai of public land of degraded forest will be given to communities under the new forest plantation model. Even though this may sound like a lot, it is only 0.37 percent of the Thai territory, which amounts to approximately 321 million Rai. 1.21 million Rai would not be sufficient to accommodate all those in need of land, and who rely on it for their livelihood.

Moreover, the government aims to achieve its goal of expanding forested area to 55 percent by 2037 by suppressing encroachment and promoting restoration of forested areas and the ecosystem, which has proved problematic.[xxix] Consequently, the RTG makes significant efforts to increase the number of National Parks in the country and has established five parks, equal to 331,952 Rai, between 2016 and 2019. Currently, the RTG is in the process of establishing additional 22 National Parks, equal to 44 million Rai.[xxx] In total, Thailand will have 155 National Parks, which will together amount to 146,488,000 Rai[xxxi] or 45 percent of Thai territory. The increase of national parks to 45 percent of the country will be problematic for local communities living within and adjacent to such areas as they will be subject to the restrictive National Parks Act of 2019 described above and face increased risks of being evicted from their lands and not being able to make a livelihood. Therefore, it can be concluded that the plan to increase the forested area to 55 percent by 2037 is more likely to worsen the issues of poverty, landlessness, and income inequality, rather than enhancing them not just for at present but also for generations to come.

[I] Information has been obtained through the Network and while attending the meeting with Chaiyaphum Provincial authorities.

[ii] Prachatai English, The forest reclamation case: when the court sent Sapwai villagers to prison and off their land, (16 August 2019), available at: https://prachatai.com/english/node/8177?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ prachataienglish+%28Prachatai+in+English%29

[iii] Forest Carbon Partnership. N.d. About FCPF. [online] Available at: https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/aboutfcpf-0

[iv] Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. N.d. What is REDD+?, available at: https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/what-redd

[v] Thailand R-PP: TAP Comments and Recommendations, 2013, available at: https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/sites/fcp/files/2013/Thailand%20RPP%20TAP%20Comments%20and%20Recommendations.pdf. See also, Response Matrix to TAP Final Review, available at: https://www.forestcarbonpartnership.org/sites/fcp/files/2013/Response%20matrix%20to%20TAP%20Final%20review %20%20comment%2018%20March.pdf

[vi] ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Thai Junta Militarizes the Management of Natural Resources, Issue 2015 (47), (3 September 2015), available at: https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2015_47.pdf

[vii] Prachatai English, The forest reclamation case: when the court sent Sapwai villagers to prison and off their land, (16 August 2019), available at: https://prachatai.com/english/node/8177?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ prachataienglish+%28Prachatai+in+English%29

[viii] Prachatai English, The forest reclamation case: when the court sent Sapwai villagers to prison and off their land, (16 August 2019), available at: https://prachatai.com/english/node/8177?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ prachataienglish+%28Prachatai+in+English%29 

[ix] ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Thai Junta Militarizes the Management of Natural Resources, Issue 2015 (47), (3 September 2015), available at: https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2015_47.pdf

[x] Nation Thailand, Call to overhaul ‘unfair’ 1998 resolution to determine forest land rights, (24 November 2016), available at: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/30300792

[xi] Prachatai English, The forest reclamation case: when the court sent Sapwai villagers to prison and off their land, (16 August 2019), available at: https://prachatai.com/english/node/8177?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ prachataienglish+%28Prachatai+in+English%29

[xii] Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR, Information on the Status of the Human Rights Situation in Thailand – UPR Advocacy Factsheet on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand, developed by the Network of Indigenous Peoples of Thailand (NIPT) and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) to inform Thailand 2nd UPR Cycle, (2016), available at: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/THA/INT_CCPR_ICO_THA_23570_E.pdf

[xiii] APWLD and Protection International, Joint Statement of 25 May 2019 ‘Human Rights Groups Urge Thai Government to Release Nittaya Muangklang, Women Human Rights Defenders Working on Land Rights Issues’, available at: https://apwld.org/statement-human-rights-groups-urge-thai-government-to-release-nittaya-muangklang-womenhuman-rights-defenders-working-on-land-rights-issues/

[xiv] Prachatai, Military authorities can still arbitrarily detain civilians, (13 July 2019), available at: https://prachatai.com/english/node/8133

[xv] Rina Chandran, Thai villagers face greater threat under new national parks law, (7 June 2019), available at: http://news.trust.org/item/20190607065812-i44e8/ See also: Bangkok Post, More violence ahead for forest poor, (17 July 2019), available at: https://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1713840/more-violence-ahead-for-forest-poor

[xvi] Nation Thailand, Call to overhaul ‘unfair’ 1998 resolution to determine forest land rights, (24 November 2016), available at: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/30300792

[xvii] Bangkok Post, More violence ahead for forest poor, (17 July 2019), available at: https://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1713840/more-violence-ahead-for-forest-poor

[xviii] IPHRD, Thailand: Uphold the Article 70 of the 2017 Constitution and the Cabinet Resolution of 3 Aug. 2010 re Restoration of the Karen Traditional Livelihood; Protect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, (14 June 2018), available at: https://iphrdefenders.net/thailand-uphold-article-70-2017-constitution-cabinet-resolution-3aug2010-restorationkaren-traditional-livelihood-protect-rights-indigenous-peoples/

[xix] Forest Peoples Program, Karen Indigenous People – Request for Consideration of the Situation, (2016), available at: https://www.forestpeoples.org/en/environmental-governance-world-heritage-convention-legal-human-rightshuman-rights-mechanisms/news

[xx] IPHRD, Thailand: Uphold the Article 70 of the 2017 Constitution and the Cabinet Resolution of 3 Aug. 2010 re Restoration of the Karen Traditional Livelihood; Protect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, (14 June 2018), available at: https://iphrdefenders.net/thailand-uphold-article-70-2017-constitution-cabinet-resolution-3aug2010-restorationkaren-traditional-livelihood-protect-rights-indigenous-peoples/

[xxi] SEAS Perspective, Thai Junta Militarizes the Management of Natural Resources, (3 September 2015), available at: https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2015_47.pdf

[xxii] iLaw, Supplementary document to the 20 Year National Strategy 2017-2036, available at: https://ilaw.or.th/sites/default/files/20%E0%B8%9B%E0%B8%B5.pdf

[xxiii] iLAW, ประกาศ เรื่อง ยุทธศาสตร์ชาติ(พ.ศ. ๒๕๖๑ - ๒๕๘๐), available at: https://ilaw.or.th/sites/default/files/national%20strategic%20plan%20by%20ncpo.PDF

[xxiv] The Board of Investments Thailand will provide incentives for those doing business in the forest plantation industry. Conditions for receiving incentives are (1) the project should have research and development capacity; (2) plantations must cover at least 300 Rai of which at least 50 Rai must be adjacent, and (3) projects must be approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Thai Lawyers Ltd, BOI Promotion for Economic Forest Plantation, (13 July 2018), available at: https://thailawyers.com/boi-promotion-economic-forest-plantation/

[xxv] Bangkok Post, New laws chased to boost afforestation, (10 August 2018), available at: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1518826/new-laws-chased-to-boost-afforestation

[xxvi] 1 Ray equals 1600 Square Meters, Siam Legal, Land measurement in Thailand, available at: https://www.siam-legal.com/realestate/thailand-convert-rai.php

[xxvii] Bangkok Post, New forestation plan to slash costs, (17 August 2019), available at: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1731711/new-forestation-plan-to-slash-costs

[xxviii] Bangkok Post, New forestation plan to slash costs, (17 August 2019), available at: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1731711/new-forestation-plan-to-slash-costs

[xxix] iLAW, ประกาศ เรื่อง ยุทธศาสตร์ชาติ(พ.ศ. ๒๕๖๑ - ๒๕๘๐), available at: https://ilaw.or.th/sites/default/files/national%20strategic%20plan%20by%20ncpo.PDF

[xxx] Travel News Digest, TAT announces five new national parks in Thailand, (19 August 2019), available at: https://www.travelnewsdigest.in/2019/08/tat-announces-five-new-national-parks-in-thailand/

[xxxi] Travel News Digest, TAT announces five new national parks in Thailand, (19 August 2019), available at: https://www.travelnewsdigest.in/2019/08/tat-announces-five-new-national-parks-in-thailand/

TWITTER & INSTAGRAM

Founded in 2017, Manushya Foundation serves as a bridge to engage, mobilise, and empower agents of change by: connecting humans through inclusive coalition building and; by developing strategies focused at placing local communities’ voices in the centre of human rights advocacy and domestic implementation of international human rights obligations and standards.

 

Manushya Foundation strengthens the solidarity and capacity of communities and grassroots to ensure they can constructively raise their own concerns and provide solutions in order to improve their livelihoods and the human rights situation on the ground.

©2021 by Manushya Foundation.