Legalising illegal resorts 'will endanger' Thai forests

national June 29, 2013 00:00

By Tanpisit Lerdbamrungchai

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Thailand will lose its forests in less than a decade if the government continues turning illegal resort operators inside national parks into legal tenants, the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation warned yesterday.

“If our forests remain open for lease, then they will come to an end,” the foundation’s chairperson Rataya Chantian told a seminar. 
Held by Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Forestry, the seminar addressed conflicts between development and conservation policies and on whether resorts encroaching into national parks should be dismantled or allowed to stay open through a new legal framework. 
“Some people in society are concerned about policies that are geared towards the use of forestland more than ever before,” Kwanchai Duangsathaporn said in his capacity as deputy director of the faculty’s Forest Research Centre.
Speaking at the same seminar, Nakhon Ratchasima Tourism Association’s president Samer Jindapong said resorts promoted tourism and generated income for locals, adding that when the government cracked down on illegal resorts in the Wang Nam Kheow National Park, the local economy suffered badly. 
“When those resorts were dismantled, farmers had to go somewhere else to sell their fruits. 
“Many people lost their jobs and had to find new employment. More than 60 students had to quit school in order to relocate with their parents,” Samer said. 
Asst Prof Wanchai Arunpraparut, dean of the faculty, said that though these illegal resorts boosted tourism and the local economy, their presence ran against the country’s principle of forest conservation. 
Annop Chaipornthanarat, an academic at the Forest Department, said the government should have clear-cut policies. 
“I don’t want to see confusing policies,” he said. 
Not long after the crackdown on illegal resorts in the Wang Nam Kheow National Park was carried out, relevant authorities have talked about making these resort operators legal tenants. 

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