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Thap Lan National Park Land Reclassification: Balancing Conservation and Agricultural Needs

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Thailand’s Thap Lan National Park is at the heart of a riveting and contentious debate, sparking lively public discourse and passionate arguments from all sides. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) is currently holding public hearings regarding a proposal to demarcate 265,286 rai of Thap Lan National Park as non-protected land. This significant shift, designed to make way for agricultural activities, has captured the attention and stirred the emotions of many. While some villagers, who have long been residing in the park even before it was officially declared a national park, are in favor of the plan, a wave of conservationists and concerned citizens are ringing the alarm bells over this controversial move.

This plan, originally brought forward by the Office of the National Land Policy Board (ONLPB) and based on the consolidated “One Map” system introduced in 2000, aims to streamline multiple land-mapping systems used by various governmental agencies into a unified framework. Since the cabinet approved this proposal on March 14 of last year, it has not taken long for this hot-button issue to ignite public fervor. Even with the streamlined mapping system, the proposed change has many fearing the thin end of the wedge, potentially opening the door for larger-scale deforestation and land exploitation.

The DNP began these crucial hearings on June 28, and they are set to continue both on-site and online up to the coming Friday. The gathered insights and opinions will be compiled into a report to be reviewed by the government’s committee on national parks, overseen by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Phatcharavat Wongsuwan. The tension between those in favor and against is palpable, making these hearings a battleground of perspectives.

Over the past four decades, disputes between villagers residing on Thap Lan forest land and park authorities have been a recurring saga. According to DNP chief Attapol Charoenshunsa, some villagers have been granted formal residency within approximately 58,000 rai of reserved forest land within the park. With the national parks committee expected to reach a conclusion within a month, public consensus will play a key role in shaping the final decision. Pol Gen Phatcharavat, chair of the committee, noted that of the contested 265,286 rai, around 58,000 rai has seen long-standing occupancy by villagers, who now stand to gain from the land’s exclusion from protected status.

Currently, Thap Lan National Park encompasses roughly 1.3 million rai across the provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachin Buri, and Sa Kaeo. Those who procured land later from these original villagers under dubious circumstances will not be afforded rights to the land and will face legal repercussions for encroachment, as stated by Pol Gen Phatcharavat. In an effort to quell fears about potential misuse of the land by wealthy buyers, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has assured that strict laws will be enforced, aiming to protect the integrity of the land and ensuring that only eligible individuals benefit.

With the public hearings concluded last Friday, and the online consultations wrapping up this Friday, over 100,000 participants have made their voices heard thus far. DNP chief Attapol expressed his appreciation for the public’s enthusiasm, confident that the ultimate decision will reflect what is just and proper.

In contrast, voices opposing the plan have been equally vociferous. Panudet Kerdmali, chairman of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, has criticized the ONLPB for what he deems an illegitimate proposal to convert these precious plots of forest land for agricultural use. He asserts that there is no pressing need to reassign this land for the benefit of landless farmers, especially since the areas in question are not currently facing deforestation, as confirmed by aerial images of Thap Lan.

Any potential reduction in the nation’s forest cover, Panudet argues, could violate Section 65 of the constitution and contravene the government’s 20-year national strategic plan. However, not all sentiments echo Panudet’s objections. In a recent public hearing within Thap Lan, a majority of the 343 attending villagers supported the redistribution of the 265,286 rai from the protected status. This level of support underscores the complexity and urgency of the issue at hand.

With opinions coming from all spectrums and the concluding decisions looming, the fate of Thap Lan National Park hangs in delicate balance. As the clock ticks down to the final verdict, one thing is clear: this is not just a local issue but a national dialogue on conservation, land rights, and sustainable development.


  1. Narisa Wong July 10, 2024

    I can’t believe they’re seriously considering turning protected land into farmland. This is a blatant disregard for environmental conservation!

    • Somchai July 10, 2024

      But what about the villagers who have been living there for ages? Don’t they deserve to have their rights recognized?

      • Noppon S. July 10, 2024

        Villagers’ rights are important, but not at the expense of our natural resources. There’s got to be another way to balance this.

      • Narisa Wong July 10, 2024

        I agree with Noppon. We need to find a solution without compromising the environment.

    • ConserveThai July 10, 2024

      Absolutely! The land should remain protected. We’ve done enough damage to our ecosystems already.

  2. Ravi July 10, 2024

    Reallocating some of the land seems fair to me. Many villagers have been living on this land for years; it’s about time they get official recognition.

    • Kanokporn S. July 10, 2024

      Yes, but not at the cost of destroying our forests. There must be another way to recognize the villagers’ rights.

    • Ravi July 10, 2024

      I agree, Kanokporn. We need a sustainable plan that can benefit both the villagers and the environment.

  3. Lila P. July 10, 2024

    We can’t just keep pushing villagers out of their homes. They were there before the park was even officially recognized.

    • EcoWarrior32 July 10, 2024

      That’s an emotional argument, Lila. But facts show that conservation needs to prioritize those lands to protect biodiversity.

  4. Chanchai July 10, 2024

    Why not use modern agricultural techniques to maximize production on existing farmland instead of taking over forestland?

    • AgricTech57 July 10, 2024

      That’s a great idea, Chanchai. Agricultural technology has massively improved in recent years. We don’t need to expand into forest areas.

  5. GreenFuture July 10, 2024

    This isn’t just about the villagers; it’s about setting a dangerous precedent. If Thap Lan can be reclassified, what’s next?

    • Supan B. July 10, 2024

      Every situation is unique, GreenFuture. We can’t generalize like that. This reclassification is for an exceptional circumstance.

    • GreenFuture July 10, 2024

      Exceptional circumstance or not, we can’t risk the slippery slope.

  6. Pattra V. July 10, 2024

    I’m torn. Villagers need land but deforestation is a real issue.

  7. TreeHugger27 July 10, 2024

    This is a step backward in our fight against climate change. We need more forest cover, not less.

    • Samphan July 10, 2024

      I understand the concern, but the land in question has already been largely occupied and isn’t untouched forest.

    • TreeHugger27 July 10, 2024

      Partially occupied doesn’t mean we should give up on conservation.

  8. Jade N. July 10, 2024

    The current laws are there for a reason. Changing them might open the door to further exploitation.

  9. EcoEnthusiast July 10, 2024

    Once the land is reclassified, it will be extremely hard to protect it from future exploitation, mark my words.

  10. Jay July 10, 2024

    This is a complex issue. Any decision will have pros and cons. I hope the final verdict respects both land rights and environmental integrity.

  11. Thira K. July 10, 2024

    Thap Lan is a national treasure. Deforestation for agricultural use is not a justified reason for land reclassification.

    • Lert July 10, 2024

      Somebody needs to think about the people living there too, not just the forests.

    • Thira K. July 10, 2024

      People and forests can coexist without needing to reclassify protected land.

  12. Boonyarit July 10, 2024

    Why don’t we apply stringent laws to ensure any agricultural use is sustainable? That could be a middle ground.

    • Mintu July 10, 2024

      Sustainable agriculture sounds nice, but enforcing it is easier said than done.

    • Boonyarit July 10, 2024

      Indeed, but we need to start somewhere, plus the government has promised strict laws.

  13. Anan July 10, 2024

    Has anyone considered the impact on tourism? Thap Lan attracts visitors who contribute to the local economy too.

    • TouristTanya July 10, 2024

      Great point! A reduction in protected land might affect tourism and local businesses dependent on it.

  14. Kittisak J. July 10, 2024

    Prime Minister Srettha’s assurance about enforcing strict laws feels empty to me. Words are one thing, action is another.

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