New Unesco heritage bid for forest site

New Unesco heritage bid for forest site

Fourth push made to list Kaeng Krachan

Thailand will push ahead with another attempt to secure Unesco World Heritage site status for the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex at the annual World Heritage Convention this month, said Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.

The country's largest national park, covering a 2.9-million rai forest that spans Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces, has been rejected three times in part due to human rights violations against Karen villagers.

In the 2019 meeting, Unesco's World Heritage Committee (WHC) decided not to consider the forest complex as a World Heritage Site, citing outdated information about its boundaries and the lack of participation from local communities, Mr Varawut said yesterday.

He said the government has complied with the WHC's three-point proposal and its delegation will proceed with the bid to have the forest complex listed as a World Heritage Site.

The proposal dealt with demands by the ethnic Karen villagers, who live within the forest area, the human rights violation allegations, and input from local communities over the proposed listing.

To address Karen villagers' demands, he said the government set up a committee in March 2019 to resolve land rights disputes and rehabilitate the livelihood of forest dwellers.

Mr Varawut said five sub-committees were formed to address five specific issues: investigation on the settlements of the Karen villagers in the forest; legal hurdles involving land rights and development; legal assistance to those prosecuted; environment impacts caused by the Karen community's farming practice; and land problems and quality of life.

He said up to 88 projects have been implemented by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and other agencies to help improve the livelihood of forest dwellers.

The local community has also been invited to take part in the Protected Area Committee to ensure inclusive park management, and more members from Bang Kloi village are expected to join, he said.

He said the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation will propose a number of regulations allowing forest dwellers to make use of land in forest reserve areas in line with the 2019 National Park Act and the 2019 Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act.

According to Mr Varawut, the ministry invited the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to inspect its work in addressing the problems three times from November 2019–December 2020 but the IUCN was unable to make a visit due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The IUCN, however, published an article accusing the Thai government of not being cooperative, he said.

He said up to eight countries have expressed their support for Thailand's proposed listing of Kaeng Krachan forest complex as a World Heritage Site.

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