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Thap Lan National Park Land Dispute: Conservation vs. Farmers’ Rights Showdown

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Amidst the tranquil beauty of Thap Lan National Park, park rangers take a well-deserved break, basking in the serenity of the lush landscape. But behind this peaceful facade, a heated debate is brewing between conservationists, park officials, and local farmers. A critical decision looms on the horizon, one that could reshape the park’s future and redefine its borders.

Conservation groups and national park officials are rallying the public to voice their opinions on a controversial plan to excise a significant portion of land from Thap Lan National Park for agricultural use. The clock is ticking, with only three days remaining for people to express their stance on this pivotal issue. The stakes are high, with 265,000 rai of land hanging in the balance.

The heart of the dispute lies in the farmers’ longstanding claims of ownership. They argue that they have been living on and cultivating this land long before Thap Lan was designated a national park in 1981. As the sprawling park spans almost 1.4 million rai (or 2,235 square kilometers) across four districts in Nakhon Ratchasima and one in Prachin Buri province, the contested land is situated in Soeng San and Wang Nam Khieo districts of Nakhon Ratchasima. Notably, Wang Nam Khieo is renowned for its picturesque resorts.

Leading the charge for public engagement, the Sueb Nakhasathien Foundation has outlined the steps required for participating in an online survey to gauge public sentiment on the proposed land excision. Utilizing the power of social media, hashtags like #savethaplan and #savethaplannationalpark have been trending, urging citizens to take a stand and ensure their voices are heard.

The debate gained momentum when the former government, under then-prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, approved a proposal in March of the previous year to allow the Ministry of National Resources and Environment to revoke the protected status of the disputed land. This move aimed to resolve the ongoing conflict between encroaching farmers and park authorities by allocating the land to farmers under Sor Por Kor title.

The new boundaries, derived from a 1:4,000 scale map known as the One Map project, would result in the park losing 265,000 rai to agricultural use under the supervision of the Office of Agricultural Land Reform. However, this complex process is anything but automatic. It necessitates thorough public hearings and the collection of opinions through online surveys and public meetings organized by the national parks department.

Amid the rising tensions, the Sueb Nakhasathien Foundation has raised concerns about the potential misuse of the land by outsiders. They caution that the plan could pave the way for the construction of more resorts or other non-agricultural developments, ultimately benefiting wealthy individuals rather than local farmers.

“Many plots of land in Wang Nam Khieo district are believed to be owned by nominees,” the foundation warned on their website. This sentiment is echoed by National Parks Office director Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn, who expressed his apprehension on July 1, urging the public to oppose the move and protect the park’s integrity.

However, not everyone aligns with Chaiwat’s views. Residents of Ban Thak Samakkhi in Wang Nam Khieo district have voiced their criticisms, calling for fairness in the process. They emphasize that their ancestors have lived on this land long before it was declared a national park.

Somboon Singking, chairman of the tambon Thai Samakkhi Administration Organisation, accused Mr. Chaiwat of presenting a one-sided narrative that unfairly portrays the villagers as encroachers. “The villagers don’t feel comfortable about that,” he remarked.

The villagers’ historical claims are deeply rooted, with stories like that of Kittipat Jainok, whose grandfather settled in the area in 1960. Kittipat represents the third generation to occupy this land. Similarly, Pinkaew Hermkhunthod has been embroiled in a twelve-year legal battle to prove that her four-rai farm existed before it was incorporated into the park.

“We can prove that we have been living here since before the national park was established,” Ms. Pinkaew asserted, highlighting the ongoing struggle to preserve her family’s heritage.

As the deadline for public opinions approaches, the future of Thap Lan National Park hangs in the balance. Will the voices of the farmers and villagers triumph, or will conservation efforts prevail? Only time will tell. For now, the lush beauty of Thap Lan silently witnesses a clash of ideals, as the fight for its boundaries continues.


  1. Joe Bloggs July 9, 2024

    Conservation should always come first! We can’t let short-term gains ruin our natural heritage.

    • Pinkaew H. July 9, 2024

      Easy to say when you’re not the one losing your home’s land. Our families were here long before the park.

      • NatureLover88 July 9, 2024

        But what about the future? Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

    • Timothy July 9, 2024

      I agree, Joe. It’s not just about us but about future generations too.

      • Sombat N. July 9, 2024

        Would you feel the same if your ancestors’ land was at stake?

  2. Kunying Su July 9, 2024

    This park should stay protected! Farmers can relocate with government aid.

    • Kittipat J. July 9, 2024

      Relocate? That sounds easier than it actually is. What about our heritage and communities?

  3. Grower134 July 9, 2024

    What about the rich resort owners? They’re the real problem, not the farmers.

  4. Larry D July 9, 2024

    This is just another case of the wealthy manipulating policies for their gain.

    • EcoWarrior July 9, 2024

      True, but does that mean we should just hand over the land? That’s not the solution either.

      • Larry D July 9, 2024

        Agreed. There needs to be a balanced resolution. But who will ensure fairness?

  5. Sarah L. July 9, 2024

    Public engagement is crucial! Have you all filled out the survey?

    • Ecologist77 July 9, 2024

      Doing that tonight. Every voice counts in this fight.

      • Sarah L. July 9, 2024

        Yes! It’s important to make sure our voices are heard.

  6. Chananya P. July 9, 2024

    Twelve-year legal battle? Clearly, this is more than just about land—it’s about rights and history.

    • Evan July 9, 2024

      Absolutely. It’s a complex issue with no easy answers.

  7. Andy Sams July 9, 2024

    Why wasn’t this land dispute resolved back in 1981? Procrastination has only made it worse.

  8. GreenEarth July 9, 2024

    When will we learn that nature doesn’t have a voice? We have to protect it.

    • OldFarmer July 9, 2024

      Nature’s great, but where do we live and farm then?

  9. Liu Chan July 9, 2024

    Understanding the farmers’ perspective is key. This isn’t just black and white.

    • Kanya J. July 9, 2024

      Thank you! We just want fairness.

  10. Traveler42 July 9, 2024

    I’ve been to Wang Nam Khieo; it’s beautiful. Such natural beauty should be preserved!

  11. Paulina M. July 9, 2024

    Government should designate clear land ownership laws. That way, situations like this can be avoided in the future.

  12. EcoActivist July 9, 2024

    If the land goes to agriculture, will there be measures to ensure it’s not sold to resort developers later?

  13. Despina July 9, 2024

    All this talk and still no real action being taken. Public consultations need to be more effective.

    • AaronYK July 9, 2024

      Yeah. Let’s hope they actually listen to the people’s voice this time.

  14. ExplorerDave July 9, 2024

    The One Map project sounds promising, but execution will be crucial. Will it really be impartial?

  15. Kitti P. July 9, 2024

    True conservation means protecting both nature and the people who nurture it.

  16. Megan R. July 9, 2024

    All stakeholders need representation at the table for any real solution to happen.

  17. PlantLife July 9, 2024

    This debate is missing clear data on how much conservation land is truly at risk.

    • Joan23 July 9, 2024

      Good point. We need transparency to make informed choices.

  18. James Kim July 9, 2024

    It’s distressing to see such a beautiful biodiversity hotspot at risk.

  19. Martin H. July 9, 2024

    Possible compromise: create a joint committee of farmers and conservationists to oversee the land.

  20. Sarah L. July 9, 2024

    Great suggestion, Martin. Can we ensure both parties have equal power though?

  21. Katie July 9, 2024

    I strongly oppose revoking the protected status of the land. Once it’s gone, it cannot be recovered.

  22. John Doe July 9, 2024

    Resort developments are the elephant in the room. How do we keep them at bay?

    • GreenEarth July 9, 2024

      Strict regulations, and stringent monitoring. But who will enforce them?

  23. EcoFeline July 9, 2024

    If farmers have proof of historical ownership, shouldn’t their claims be respected?

    • Joe Bloggs July 9, 2024

      That’s fair, but we need very clear and uncontested proof.

  24. SavannahP July 9, 2024

    Private ownership doesn’t always mean misuse. Some individuals may care more about the environment than the government.

    • Ecologist77 July 9, 2024

      True, but history shows us that greed often wins out.

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