Southern Thailand protests against newly proposed national parkLegacy

Protests have sparked among the residents of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani over the proposed creation of Hat Khanom-Mu Koh Thale Tai National Park.

Approximately 500 locals from these regions argue that the establishment of the park would directly impede their livelihoods, utilising the land they rely on for subsistence.

The public outcry was voiced during a meeting held at the Khanom District Office on Wednesday. High-ranking officials such as Thitiwat Boonkit, the district chief of Khanom, and Wimonmart Nuipakdee, the head of the proposed national park, were present to oversee the proceedings.

Suttipan Nurak, the representative of the locals, criticised the lack of clarity surrounding the park’s establishment plan. The residents perceive the national park’s regulations as an imminent threat to their traditional way of life. Nurak escalated the issue by delivering a letter of complaint to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, handed over through Sunthorn Photsalee, the senior permanent secretary of Khanom district.

Wimonmat Nuipakdee, on the other hand, confirmed that the national park’s proposed boundaries have already been trimmed down from a 197,614-rai area to 125,817 rai. This reduction of 73,197 rai between 2008 and 2023 was intended to prevent encroachment on land owned by government agencies and citizens. She defended the park’s establishment, citing the Cabinet resolution of April 3, 2001, and the Fisheries Act 2015 that secure the locals’ rights to fish within a 5.4-kilometre radius from the shoreline.

Moreover, Nuipakdee highlighted the park’s potential to serve as a sanctuary for various wildlife species, including serows, deers, boars and southern dusky leaf monkeys. The marine area, islands and beaches within the park’s premises would also potentially provide a habitat for pink dolphins and sea turtles.

Awaiting decision

Despite these arguments, residents unanimously voted against the national park’s establishment. Nuipakdee clarified that the meeting was primarily aimed at addressing the locals’ concerns and complaints rather than serving as a public hearing on the national park’s boundaries. She further stated that the opinions of other stakeholders, such as the communities of Koh Taen, Koh Rab, and Koh Mudsum, are yet to be heard, reported Bangkok Post.

This conflict follows a recent petition submitted by locals from Koh Taen in Koh Samui district, who protested against the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP)’s plan to include their island and neighbouring areas in the Hat Khanom-Mu Koh Thale Tai National Park.

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Author: Mitch Connor