Welcome to the emerald expanses of Thap Lan National Park, an ecological masterpiece that sprawls extravagantly over 1.4 million rai of rugged terrain, cloaked in verdant forests and teeming with wildlife. A treasured sanctuary spanning the picturesque realms of Prachin Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Buri Ram, Thap Lan stands proud as Thailand’s second-largest national treasure. Just a whisper away from the bustling heart of Bangkok, this natural wonderland lures adventure-seekers and tranquility-chasers alike. Yet, beneath its serene canopy, a storm brews as whispers of change threaten to alter its very essence.
In a move that has eco-warriors and nature enthusiasts alike raising their voices in a chorus of disapproval, the esteemed Seub Nakhasathien Foundation has fervently opposed a dramatic proposal that could strip away over 265,000 rai (104,772 acres) of Thap Lan’s protective embrace. If approved, this controversial decision would signal the most significant vanishing act of forest land the nation has witnessed in a decade.
Imagine, if you will, a labyrinth of commercialism eroding this sanctuary, as the foundation’s secretary-general, the passionate Panudet Kerdmali, paints a picture of a future where Thap Lan’s integrity is compromised in favor of economic ventures. The park’s battle scars from previous encroachment skirmishes are evident, with tales of resort developers who dared to defy nature and found themselves amidst ruins of their own making.
The plot thickened last Friday when the National Parks Board cast the die on the fate of Thap Lan, a decision that harks back to cabinet approval in March 2023. Though the then-natural resources and environment minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, exhibited a tinge of acquiescence, one wonders if the park’s rampant encroachment issues could justify a redrawn frontline separating the forest from man’s grasp.
Originating from the lofty aspirations of the Office of the National Land Policy Board’s One Map initiative, this plan calls into question the very demarcation of state land. The foundation, steadfast in its protective stance, has presented a triad of cogent arguments designed to deter any premature decisions, especially those that fly in the face of national strategies and forest policies that venerate 35% of Thai land as natural wood and mandate a minimum of 25% as preserved forest.
Casting a long shadow over preceding efforts to settle ownership conflicts, the foundation paints a harrowing potential future, one where investors might exploit these treasured plots for personal gain, threatening the park’s biodiversity and ecological balance.
The Seub Nakhasathien Foundation has taken a stand, a vow to honor the legacy of the man whose name it bears, the legendary Seub Nakhasathien. A wildlife researcher, a champion for forests, and a martyr for conservation, Seub’s ultimate sacrifice in 1990 galvanized a movement, seeding an ethos of reverence for places like Thap Lan and spawning a generation dedicated to its defense.
Every blade of grass, every whispering tree, and every creature that finds sanctuary within Thap Lan’s embrace have become symbols of a struggle that transcends mere land—they epitomize a battle for the soul of nature itself. And so the foundation beseeches the custodians of our world’s natural heritage, to wield their power with grace, to steward this irreplaceable domain with an unwavering hand, ensuring that the verdant heart of Thap Lan continues to beat proudly for generations to come.