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Thap Lan National Park Land Dispute: House Committee to Address Community Concerns

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Park rangers conduct a patrol in Thap Lan National Park on June 10. (Photo: Thap Lan National Park)

A House committee is gearing up for a significant discussion with local residents around Thap Lan National Park, aiming to tackle a highly controversial proposal that might see thousands of rai of parkland losing its protected status. The debate, charged with emotions, sees a clash of interests between long-time land residents and passionate conservationists.

The contentious proposal, greenlit by the previous government on March 14 last year, has stirred the pot. On one side, locals who settled on the land before the park’s boundaries were drawn argue for lifting the protection on a whopping 265,286 rai. On the other, environmental advocates vehemently oppose any such move.

Poonsak Chanchampee, a dedicated Move Forward Party MP at the helm of the House Committee on Land, Natural Resources, and the Environment, has set the stage for an open discussion on July 17. Poonsak emphasizes the urgent need for this forum, viewing it as a platform to pave the way for a potential resolution to this ongoing conflict.

This proposal emerged from the Office of the National Land Policy Board (ONLPB), following a directive to harmonize the myriad of state mapping systems into a unified One Map system, introduced back in 2000. Consequently, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP) kicked off both onsite and online hearings on June 28, with sessions extending until the end of the week. All findings will be presented to a government committee overseeing national parks for further assessment.

When probed on the contentious areas, Poonsak explained that the land in dispute falls into three distinct categories. Firstly, regions where settlers lived before the park’s boundary declaration. Secondly, areas recognized by the ONLPB after the park’s establishment. Lastly, land held by those entangled in a staggering 552 lawsuits for alleged encroachment, as claimed by the DNP.

An estimated 70,000 rai of this land is classified as ONLPB areas or Sor Por Kor land. Poonsak noted more information would surface by July 17. What’s crucial to understand about Sor Por Kor land is its exclusive designation for agricultural use. It cannot be bought, sold, nor easily transferred, except through inheritance.

Thap Lan National Park spans an impressive 1.3 million rai across the Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachin Buri, and Sa Kaeo provinces. However, the epicenter of these heated disputes often lies within the Wang Nam Khieo district of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Prakob Siriwongtaosa-ard, chief executive of the Thai Samakkhi Subdistrict Administrative Organisation in Wang Nam Khieo, voiced the concerns of locals who’ve resided in the area for over half a century. Their consensus favors sticking to the 2000 boundary declaration, which notably excluded 11 villages from the park’s confines. On the flip side, the 1981 boundary map controversially included these villages, spurring at least 300 lawsuits by the DNP against the local populace.

Such disputes underscore the delicate balance between conserving natural treasures and respecting the rights and histories of communities. It’s a narrative that continues to unfold, calling for careful consideration and thoughtful dialogue.


  1. EcoWarrior21 July 10, 2024

    This is outrageous! How can we even think of lifting protections on over 265,000 rai of parkland? Nature comes first!

    • Farmer Joe July 10, 2024

      Easy for you to say when you’re not the one facing eviction. Some of us have been living here for generations.

      • EcoWarrior21 July 10, 2024

        Generations or not, the law is the law. We need to follow it to protect our planet for future generations.

      • Ananya S. July 10, 2024

        What about finding a compromise? Maybe designate some areas for responsible agriculture and keep the rest protected.

    • Cityslicker July 10, 2024

      Exactly, EcoWarrior21. These lands are vital for biodiversity. We’re already losing too much wildlife.

  2. Nongnuch July 10, 2024

    If the government misdrew boundaries, it’s their fault, not the people’s. Locals shouldn’t suffer because of bureaucratic errors.

    • OldMan River July 10, 2024

      Couldn’t agree more. But let’s be clear, not everyone is innocent. Some have knowingly encroached.

    • EcoWarrior21 July 10, 2024

      Bureaucratic errors or not, nature can’t wait for us to fix our mistakes. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

    • Nongnuch July 10, 2024

      Fair point, but a complete eviction isn’t the solution. Collaboration is key here.

  3. Chang July 10, 2024

    Has anyone thought about how lifting protections might affect local tourism? The park is a major draw for visitors.

    • TourGuide55 July 10, 2024

      You’re right. A lot of businesses depend on the park’s pristine condition. Lifting protections could mean economic trouble.

    • EcoWarrior21 July 10, 2024

      Exactly! Tourists come for the unspoiled nature, not farmlands. Conservation should be an economic priority too.

  4. Pinit July 10, 2024

    The government should focus on developing other areas for the locals, not meddle with protected lands.

    • LongTimeLocal July 10, 2024

      Easier said than done. There’s not much arable land left. Plus, moving people isn’t simple.

    • Pinit July 10, 2024

      I get that it’s complicated, but we’re talking about the long-term survival of crucial ecosystems here. It’s worth the effort.

  5. Suda M. July 10, 2024

    We need to update the maps and find a middle ground. One Map system can help clarify a lot of issues.

    • MapMaker42 July 10, 2024

      Totally agree. Consistent mapping will solve at least some of the conflicts over boundaries.

  6. GreenThumb July 10, 2024

    Let’s not forget that Sor Por Kor land is for agriculture only. But people have been finding loopholes. We need stricter regulations.

  7. YoungConservationist July 10, 2024

    Seeing how many lawsuits there are, it’s obvious that the current system is broken. Needs a complete overhaul.

  8. Kanya July 10, 2024

    This is a classic case of humans versus nature. As much as I empathize with locals, we can’t keep expanding into natural reserves.

  9. Plai July 10, 2024

    It’s ironic that the same government that declared the land as protected is now debating to lift those protections. Mixed signals much?

  10. BusyBee July 10, 2024

    Conservation efforts should be unwavering. If we keep changing the boundaries, it undermines trust and the park’s integrity.

  11. Academic101 July 10, 2024

    The role of the One Map system is indeed critical here. But how efficient has it been in resolving such disputes elsewhere?

  12. ForestWanderer July 10, 2024

    I’ve hiked through Thap Lan, and it’s stunning. Losing any part of it to non-forest activities would be a tragedy.

  13. Apinya July 10, 2024

    It’s a sensitive issue. Maybe we need a localized referendum, let the people decide what’s best for them.

  14. OldMan River July 10, 2024

    Referendums are great in theory, but locals will choose their own interests over broader environmental concerns every time.

    • Apinya July 10, 2024

      True, but if they feel involved in the decision-making, they might be more willing to compromise.

  15. DNPworker July 10, 2024

    The DNP’s lawsuits are based on clear infringements. There’s no ambiguity in many of these cases.

  16. FireflyWatcher July 10, 2024

    Natural parks are not just for humans. Countless species depend on these protected areas.

  17. Prakob5000 July 10, 2024

    How about implementing strict monitoring and letting locals stay under certain conditions?

  18. MapMakr July 10, 2024

    It seems like a simple mapping issue blew up into a major controversy. What a bureaucratic nightmare!

  19. FieldBiologist July 10, 2024

    The environmental implications of this proposal are huge. Biodiversity loss here could be massive.

  20. OldHand July 10, 2024

    We should respect those who’ve been on this land for decades. This land is their identity.

  21. PlantLover56 July 10, 2024

    Any move to reduce the park’s size should come with measures to restore and recuperate other areas.

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