The words "national park" should convey the spirit of conservation and a well-protected space of natural beauty. But in Thailand, sometimes the parks are beset by scandals and controversy that also imply problems: law violation, land disputes, poaching, encroachment and environmental abuses.
The recent oil spill that turned a section of Koh Samet black and greasy is a fresh example.
The birth of national parks in Thailand came in 1959 when Field Marshall Sarit Tanarat floated the idea to deal with dwindling forest space and environmental problems. In the same year, FM Sarit declared 14 forest areas as national parks. Khao Yai National Park became the country's first (itself wrecked by a recent controversy of race-car drifters). Currently, there are 148 national parks in Thailand, covering both land and sea.
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