By THE NATION
THE NATIONAL Legislative Assembly yesterday passed two amendments to the forestry and wildlife bills, which for the first time will allow forest dwellers and communities with overlapping claims to continue living “lawfully” in the forest – under some conditions.
The National Parks Act and the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act have been in use for nearly 60 years, and have not really addressed the conflicts between long-time forest dwelling families and the need for natural protection.
The governments have only ever taken temporary measures to deal with these issues. The incumbent junta-led government last year decided to issue a new policy that allows some people to continue living in forests under certain preservationist restrictions.
The move prompted concerned agencies including the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation department to amend their laws to bring the practice more in line with the government’s new direction. The restrictions on forest living include allowing it only for a limited period of time, limiting access to forest resources and zoning.
Phanudej Kerdmali, secretary-general of the Seub Nakhasathien foundation, said the bills introduced an “unprecedented” directive that would allow the authorities and local people to find a resolution and work together to protect forest resources.
In addition, the bills aim to reach a balance and compromise between the use of forest resources and environmental protection, through designated utilisation zones, increased power for authorities and penalties against those who violate the law.
The new amendments have also fixed some flaws and loopholes in the dated laws by allowing people to participate in designating new protected areas, as well as increasing protection and regulation for certain species and activities deemed harmful to the ecosystem, including alien species and private zoos.
Calls for joint forest management
However, opposition remains, particularly among some forest dwellers, who believe the revised laws still give weigh to state authority rather than promote participation in joint management of forest resources.
Led by P-Move, representatives of forest dwellers came to Bangkok and camped near the Parliament to protest against the deliberation of the amendments. Their efforts failed as the bills sailed through the second and third readings with 140 votes each yesterday.
The bills will be passed on for royal endorsement before being published in the Royal Gazette and put into effect.