Forest restoration efforts used to “bully the poor”
There was never a single point in time where Thailand’s forest restoration efforts were as fruitful as the past 4 years under the National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO) government. However, there has been news circulating on socal media that the NCPO have “bullied the poor” or civilians have turned into “victims” of the laws imposed to protect the forests.
An NCPO order to recoup land that is categorized as national forests faced some backlash, with people claiming that the NCPO used this law to steal land from people in the rural.
The incident is also coupled with the formation of a new task force under the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation which was designed to regain national forests from those who illegally occupied them. The height of escalation stemmed from some human rights groups claiming that brute force was used to take away land from civilians.
If you think this is true, then you are wrong! The forest restoration initiative is a large-scale effort by the state to recoup national land that was continuously being occupied illegally by people.
The NCPO order to tackle illegal entry and destruction of national resources and forestry was a combined effort by various departments and institutions in ending the vicious cycle of forest encroachment.
Not only is encroachment a prime concern for the NCPO, but illegal logging has long been a problem for Thailand for the past several decades. The end goal of the initiative is to restore 40% of Thai land as forests within 10 years.
NCPO order 66/2557 deliberately played as a guidebook for how to handle the forest restoration, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha stating that “Any progression in this policy must not impact the poor and those with low-income who are currently relying on the land for shelter before we enact this policy”.
Therefore, the NCPO did not have any intentions to bully the poor as the social media suggested, but rather to get rid of encroachers who commit illegal activity such as logging and poaching endangered species.
The majority of the 10,000 acres that were successfully retrieved by the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation was taken away from hotel operators and illegal loggers, with very few cases of normal civilians who were relying on the forests as a home. Therefore there were no incidences of the NCPO abusing power and stealing people’s land, the retrieved land belongs to the country and not individuals.