MONDAY, April 15, 2024

Chaiwat insists 2,900 rai under dispute is protected forest, cannot be ‘buffer zone’

Chaiwat insists 2,900 rai under dispute is protected forest, cannot be ‘buffer zone’

Thailand’s national parks chief rejected the Royal Thai Survey Department’s claim that 2,900 rai of forested land fell within the range of the agricultural reform zone.

Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, who hails from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said on Wednesday that his argument is based on the royal decree that drew boundaries of national parks nationwide.

He said his map of park boundaries had been used to file charges against encroachers over the past 30 years, so it cannot be wrong. He was testifying to the House committee on land, natural resources and environment.

Chaiwat was referring to an announcement by Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow, who said on Tuesday that the Royal Thai Survey Department had informed the premier that the disputed 2,900 rai (464 hectares) of forest land was actually designated for allocation to landless farmers.

Earlier, Chaiwat and Khao Yai park chief Chaiya Huayhongthong protested after park rangers found that the markings of land-reform zones impinged on 2,900 rai of the Khao Yai forests.

They alleged that corrupt land reform officials in Nakhon Ratchasima planned to allocate the forests to so-called farmers, who would only resell the land to tycoons to build luxury resorts later.

However, the Agricultural Land Reform Office argued that the marking was based on the land reform map it had been given to follow.

After the two sides began publicly trading criticism, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin ordered an urgent meeting of executives from the ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Environment. At the meeting, Srettha told them to wait for the results of the survey conducted by the Army.

On Tuesday, Thamanat told the press that though the 2,900 rai of land falls in the land reform zone, he would not allocate the plots but use them as forest buffer zones and as community forests.

Chaiwat insists 2,900 rai under dispute is protected forest, cannot be ‘buffer zone’

Chaiwat, however, shot back that this could not be done as the entire 2,900 rai falls within the park area according to his map. He also threatened to take the case to court and said he was confident of victory.

Also, he said, according to the National Parks Act, buffer zones fall within a 3-kilometre area from the edge of the park, which means the 2,900 rai is within the park, not outside or on the edge. He also called on the Royal Thai Survey Department to state the facts instead of trying to please those in power.

Some House committee members asked Chaiwat if the survey was based on the government’s new map, which reportedly incorporates all maps of different agencies to avoid dispute. Chaiwat responded by saying this so-called “one map” has not been announced or implemented.

He also said that he was ready to stand in front of Srettha and explain the situation if given an opportunity. He added that Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patcharawat Wongsuwan backed his stance and told him to adhere to the right things.