Safari zone plan meets strong opposition
The Royal Forest Department (RFD) along with numerous environmental activists have expressed their opposition to a plan to turn 30,000 rai of forest adjacent to Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary into a safari zone.
Straddling both Uthai Thani and Tak provinces, Huai Kha Khaeng sanctuary, along with Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in 1991.
The plan to develop the area into a safari zone was announced by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) on Sunday.
DNP said that Kasetsart University's Faculty of Forestry have been asked to carry out a feasibility study using a grant from the United Nations Development Programme.
RFD director-general Atthaphon Charoenchansa said on Monday that he was not aware of the plan.
"We weren't involved in the feasibility study," he said, before adding that the proposal is likely to face widespread opposition.
Phairat Chanchai, the president of the National Parks Association of Thailand, agreed with Mr Attaphon, saying that he opposed the idea because he is concerned about the project's impact on the area.
"The DNP needs to carry out proper studies because it decided to go ahead with the project," he said.
Similarly, Thai Forest Conservation Party leader, Damrong Pidech, said that the DNP cannot guarantee that the safari zone will not negatively impact the wildlife reserve.
Phanudet Koetmali, secretary-general of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, said he agrees with the safari trial project as long as it doesn't affect the wildlife sanctuary.
Seub Nakhasathien was a renowned conservationist and former chief of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.
DNP announced the plan during an event commemorating the 29th anniversary of his death 29 years ago.
Sueb took his life in his home on sanctuary grounds, reportedly due to his frustration with bureaucracy.