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Realising rights? Negotiating access to Thailand's forests

Department for International Development
Publication Date
  • Hn Social History And Conditions. Social Problems. Social Reform
  • K Law (General)
  • Ecology
  • Law


Negotiating Social Sustainability It is estimated that a quarter of Thailand is forested. These forests are the focus of conflicting interests. With a rapidly expanding economy, high levels of deforestation and appreciable rural poverty, there is pressure on Government to promote sustainable solutions to forest problems. In 1990, the Thai Government enforced a ban on all logging in response to public concern over dwindling forest resources. The ban provided a much-needed respite from uncontrolled deforestation but left unresolved significant differences between conservationists, rural communities, the Royal Forest Department (RFD), and business lobbies over the use and preservation of the forests. This prompted demand for an official community forestry framework combining the benefits of local governance with those of conservation. The Community Forestry Bill (CFB) was first proposed in 1990. Strong criticism of an initial draft opened up the process, enabling civil society groups to play a role in the development of a ‘people’s forestry bill.’ In 1999, a subsequent draft was submitted to parliament supported by 50,000 signatures from across Thailand. A revised bill is currently being read in the Upper House of the Thai Government. Who Benefits? Studies of hill areas in the north and the coastal mangrove swamps of the south-west reveal that local people have made many gains in access to the forest resources on which their livelihoods depend. However, these gains are not universal. Although community forest rights are intended to be open to all people living in forest reserve areas, some ethnic groups have benefited more than others. In particular, contestations arise over citizenship and over what constitutes an appropriate ‘community’ to gain legal access to the forest. Experiences in north and southwest Thailand highlight the challenges involved in trying to build an inclusive societ

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