AN AREA OF Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi that is being promoted for designation as a world heritage site may have to be reduced as neighbouring Myanmar maintains its strong stance in opposition to the United Nations recognition if a border dispute is not settled beforehand.
The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department has stated that discussions with Myanmar on the border demarcation at the park are ongoing, but officials said they did not expect any progress soon, so the proposed area for designation could possibly be reduced to avoid conflict, officials said.
Thailand has discussed the boundary demarcation issue with Myanmar several times since the World Heritage Committee meeting at Istanbul in July, said Thanya Netithammakul, National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department director-general.
Due to the prolonged discussions, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) put off a decision on the proposal until its next session in Paris next year, he said.
“We are considering scaling down the proposed area for the world heritage site at Kaeng Krachan, if we still cannot settle the boundary demarcation agreement with Myanmar. This is to avoid delay of world heritage site consideration and difficulties settling border problems,” Thanya said.
Thailand and Myanmar set up a joint boundary committee in 1993 to redraw the boundary demarcation, but many areas along the 2,401-kilometre border have not been settled. The Tenasserim area where the Kaeng Krachan Park is located in Phetchaburi province, which is mostly forested and inhabited by ethnic Karen communities, is one such area where disagreements remain. A resolution on the border demarcation is a long-term issue because it requires bilateral meetings between the two countries, Thanya said.
Myanmar still faces difficulties securing its border because there are several ethnic groups occupying the area, which made it harder to define the border exactly, he said.
The idea to reduce the proposed area was just a preliminary plan, and the full details had not been determined, Thanya said, adding that even if the proposed area had to be reduced, there would not be consequences because the rich and unique ecosystem would still be preserved.
The department stated another issue with the designation involved Karen communities living on the land, who would be dealt with carefully and allowed to continue living in the forest.
The director-general said the authority planned to solve problems involving the Karen communities through negotiations. “The Karen communities have lived in the forest for a very long time, but due to the population growth, good management is needed to ensure that the pristine natural resource of the forest is protected,” Thanya said.
Kaeng Krachan National Park chief Mana Phermphun said park personnel were attempting to ensure a good quality of life for people in the forest and let them live sustainably while preventing further encroachment.
“We are trying to identify the people in the forest by using the methods in the Cabinet resolution of June 30, 1998, to prevent more settlements in the forest and we are trying to let existing communities sustain their living conditions without harming the forest,” Mana said.
“We also aim to prevent land-use transformation and ownership change, as there have been some cases in which people in the forest sold their lands to investors to develop resorts and tourist attractions.”
Karen communities have raised concerns over the world heritage proposal on the grounds that they would not be allowed to participate, their traditional ways of life could be threatened and they could be evicted from their ancestral land.