By The Nation
On the occasion of World Ranger Day, held on July 31 every year, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Surasak Kanjanarat said he had instructed the Royal Forestry Department and the National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department to adjust rangers’ working conditions to fit current circumstances.
Those at the lowest salary, mostly temporary workers, would see their monthly pay increased from around Bt7,500 to Bt9,000. The department, however, will not yet offer them permanent positions as this would affect the government’s bureaucratic structure, but they will get pay raises and improved welfare.
The ministry has recently set up a new forest ranger foundation to oversee the changes, in addition to existing funds that provide them and their families support, especially in the case of deaths of injuries. The five existing funds include the DNP’s social security fund and the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation’s fund for forest rangers.
Among other things, these provide families of rangers who are killed on the job grants between Bt20,000 to 250,000. The ministry’s social security committee can also provide support of up to Bt500,000 in case of death.
At present, the DNP employs about 20,000 rangers, though some 8,400 are temporarily hired.
The two departments joined hands with the Marine and Coastal Resources Department on Tuesday to commemorate rangers and fellow officers who had sacrificed their lives over the past year to protect the protected forests. Joining the Buddhist rites and commemoration parade were conservation groups, including Freeland, which has lent the departments law enforcement support.
Family members and headmen stepped up to receive commemoration certificates for some dozen rangers who had fallen in the line of duty over the past year. Fourteen more were announced as having sustained injuries.
Over the past four years, 42 rangers have died_several from clashes with poachers , 13 were severely wounded and 36 have been injured while carrying out duties.
Sean Willmore, president of the International Ranger Federation, sent a message of encouragement via video which was played at the event. He said the day marked an opportunity to recognise the rangers’ work for conservation and their bravery in the face of danger.
He also urged others to stand by them since knowing they had support meant a lot to the rangers.
“We often say that conservation without rangers is just conversation. So, thank you to you for making all the projects that we do in supporting our colleagues possible,” said Willmore.
The Seub Foundation, meanwhile, issued a statement urging the DNP and other related agencies to upgrade the welfare and benefits for all forest rangers in order to provide job security, improve morale, and ensure proper protection for these dedicated officers and their families in case of mishaps.
While acknowledging that Thai society now had more understanding and awareness of forest and wildlife protection work, which contributed to increasing support from the public to improve officers’ working standards, the foundation’s statement said that aid from the public sector was still not enough to properly protect the rangers. Therefore, the foundation suggested that official agencies guarantee career-development opportunities for all forest rangers, allowing them to get promotions and salary increases.
Moreover, special benefits and welfare schemes such as life-insurance registration should also be provided to the officers, who work on risky duties and/or in dangerous environments, it added.
The foundation also suggested that rangers form a union for their profession, in order to be the key network for upgrading the working standard for a career as a forest ranger to the international level.