Forests, peoples, and governments: Persistent land-use conflict in Northern Thailand

Khemarat Talerngsri

Abstract


Land-use conflict in Northern Thailand has led to large-scale deforestation. This article suggests two reasons why this conflict has not been resolved despite the many legal and institutional approaches taken by Thai governments over the decades. First, conflicting directions embedded within the national policymaking level caused uncertainty for policy implementors at ministerial levels. Second, policy-drivers at the local level interacted with the specific socioeconomic context of upland residents in a way to make land-use conflict persistent. Contradictory messages by top policymakers, combined with the national ministries’ focus on purely functional tasks, diminished the importance of a local area-based approach necessary for land-use conflict resolution. Additionally, vested interests favoring agricultural expansion into the forests have been more diverse and influential than those favoring forest conservation; the former having tools at hand to incentivize smallholders to encroach into forested areas. Further driving agricultural expansion was that, in a management vacuum, local private sector actors acted as the de facto policy coordinators for the fragmented government local operations; however, on the forest conservation front, there was no coordinating body. This imbalanced situation has proved fertile soil for conflict.

 


Keywords


Land use conflict; deforestation; Thailand; forest conservation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15355/epjs15.2.19

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