Unesco slams 'chaos park'

Unesco slams 'chaos park'

Once again, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation's bid to register part of Kaeng Krachan National Park as a world heritage site has been turned down. The Unesco World Heritage Committee continues to inform Thai governments of major problems inside the nation's largest national park. Governments continually refuse to fix them.

The latest application for world heritage status of the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex was made by the department under Thanya Netithammakun.

Even Mr Thanya admits that the World Heritage Committee is correct about some of the problems.

For example, Myanmar claims it owns around 1,000 square kilometres of the complex. That represents more than a fifth of the 4,700 sq km that the department claimed as Thai land.

Now, that committee has again dismissed the application. The department chief says the border problem can be worked out before Thailand re-submits the proposal next year. Mr Thanya may be right.

However, Thailand-Myanmar border disputes in the past have been bitter. Some resulted in cross-border shooting until cooler heads intervened. But clearly, the committee has no authority to declare the disputed area as Thai, let alone a world heritage site.

If the border dispute was the only problem, it might be solvable. But anyone following the news knows that Phetchaburi's Kaeng Krachan National Park dispute is one of the saddest, even one of the most violent in the country.

Former park chief Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn and his associates are frequently mentioned in reference to the April 2014, disappearance and likely murder of a Karen activist.

Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, known as Billy, was last seen with Mr Chaiwat before his disappearance.

Mr Chaiwat says he has no idea where the man wandered off to. Mr Chaiwat was acquitted in the case due to a lack of evidence.

Mr Chaiwat, who ordered his staffers to burn the homes and possessions of Karen villagers to the ground, was photographed smiling in September as the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that he had the right to evict those villagers.

These cases where officials have instigated problems with Karen people in the park are alluded to by the WHC, but not itemised. Mr Thanya and most people who follow the news know of them, however.

The Unesco committee is advised by the IUCN, the Thailand office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This excellent group has described problems in the park in huge detail. Its reports include this recent titbit of interest to Unesco and the world.

A species of frog, discovered in 2005, has become endangered in Kaeng Krachan National Park: "The threats to the [frog's] habitat are ongoing because of current management practices".

In other words, the Ranidae-family frog species is threatened because of mismanagement and criminal activities including illegal logging. Park wardens, according to IUCN and many witnesses, have turned Kaeng Krachan into a racket. People, animals and fauna all are at risk because of the park's administrators.

In truth, this continually declining area could be descriptively renamed from Kaeng Krachan to "chaos park". It is a sad example of the desecration of Thai heritage.

The government and Department of National Parks should halt all efforts to make the park a world heritage site.

It is vital to solve the border dispute and clean up crime and human rights violations before putting this park forward as a proud example.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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