The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) is preparing to explain its measures to protect the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex to UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in a bid to prevent the area being listed as a World Heritage site in Danger.
DNP acting director-general Nipon Chotibal said he was confident of clarifying the centre’s concerns over the area’s World Heritage status.
However, he accepted that illegal logging by locals and foreigners that has targeted Siamese rosewood at the forest complex – which covers more than three million rai in three national parks and one wildlife sanctuary – had increased over the past two years.
“We have deployed our staff and asked police and the military to help us to arrest the illegal logging gangs in this national park,” he said.
In response to concerns over the construction of Highway 304, he said he had asked the Highways Department to control its impact on the wildlife corridor.
Raweewan Bhuridej, the deputy secretary general of the Office of Natural Resources and Environment Policy and Planning, said the World Heritage Centre had expressed serious concerns and it was possible the forest complex would be given a “danger” status due to the heavy illegal logging.
Raweewan said illegal logging was a difficult problem to resolve and needed cooperation from officials in neighbouring countries.
As secretary-general of the National Committee on the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of Thailand, she said the committee would collect all information relating to the forest complex and present it to the World Heritage Centre today.
Tawan Srikanil of Rak Khao Yai Network said Thailand would “lose face” if the area was given a status of being endangered.
He said there had been no plan to manage the area since it was listed as a World Heritage site – the DNP had focused on construction to generate income rather than conservation.
World Heritage Centre director Kishore Rao recently sent an official letter to Apichart Chinwanno, Thailand’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, detailing his concerns over the status the forest complex, which was listed as a World Heritage site in 2005. The complex is also facing a threat from construction of dams.
The complex covers the Khao Yai, Pang Si Da and Ta Phraya national parks and the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary.
Rao’s concerns stem from a report conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature from January 14-20.
According to the report, the World Heritage Centre requested Thailand clarify these issues:
– Has the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the section of Highway 304 for kilometres 42-57 been approved, after the EIA for kilometres 26-29 was approved earlier?
– Will construction of the Huay Samong Dam, which will flood an area that is reportedly home to Siamese crocodiles, a critically endangered species, have a potential impact on the remaining crocodile population?
– Will the potential dam construction in Klang Dong, or the western area of Ta Phraya National Park, likely impact on the “outstanding universal value” of the forest complex?
– Is there illegal logging, as at least three rangers were wounded in recent shootouts with loggers and park staff are reportedly threatened regularly?
Thailand must submit its response by tomorrow.