The Department of National Parks, Plant, and Wildlife Conservation is looking for ways to amend a related Act following recent reforms, so it can withdraw from its earnings to pay for the legal costs of rangers who were indicted while on duty, Chalermchai Papatha, the department’s deputy chief, said.
He said the department’s chief Thanya Netithammakul urged reformers to amend the old Act and related regulations, so the department can draw on income generated from entrance fees to support the cause.
Currently, there are no legal channels allowing it to draw on its earnings for this purpose, he said.
The department is considering this issue because four of its rangers in Mae Yom National Park were recently indicted over a clash with villagers during a logging-suppression operation in 2011, which resulted in two villagers getting killed and some others injured.
The rangers were released on bail after their bosses placed their positions as guarantee. They were indicted later and had to fight the case in court.
If a state official is indicted, his or her agency is not allowed to provide legal aid as per the Finance Ministry’s regulations, Chalermchai said.
This is the reason why the department has not been able to provide legal support to the indicted rangers, he added.
The four have had to hire lawyers on their own, and that has cost them at least Bt200,000, so far. Also they may have to end up paying up to a million baht in compensation.
A ranger is paid Bt7,000 to Bt9,000 or less per month, and since they are not fully employed they have no access to social security.
As a result, the department and some of its regional offices have been distributing internal memos seeking contributions from officials nationwide.
Chalermchai said this way the department and park officials can help one another as best as they can, he said.