Forest evades WHC 'in danger' status

Forest evades WHC 'in danger' status

UN body seeks new safeguards

Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex has been spared from being put on the World Heritage in danger list.

However, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) has asked Thailand to comply with recommendations made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at its July 23 meeting and refrain from building new dams in the forest complex.

The Thai delegation led by former foreign permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow and Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep) secretary-general Raweewan Bhuridej attended the meeting in China's Fuzhou city via video conference.

According to an Onep source, the WHC examined State of Conservation reports covering 75 sites in five regions, which included Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex.

The forest complex, it decided, should not be put on the in-danger list, despite earlier concerns.

Nonetheless, the source said the WHC has asked Thailand to follow the IUCN's recommendations to ensure the forest complex is protected.

They include prevention of forest encroachment by development projects and close monitoring of operations following construction of the Huay Samong reservoir and Highway 304, which are deemed threats to the forest complex.

The WHC has also suggested the country conduct strategic environment assessments (SEA) and submit the report by Feb 1 next year. The report will be reviewed at the WHC's 45th session.

The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex has been declared a natural World Heritage site since 2005. It is spread over a distance of 230 kilometres, from Khao Yai National Park to Ta Phraya National Park, which borders Cambodia.

In 2017 the WHC deferred a decision on whether to place the complex on the World Heritage in danger list.

It wanted to see progress in efforts to stem illegal logging in the complex, especially the cutting of Siamese rosewood.

Siamese rosewood is a rare plant species found in the park which helps give it Outstanding Universal Value, one criterion the WHC committee considered when reviewing the World Heritage Site proposal.

Pinsak Suraswadi, spokesman of Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said Thailand will push ahead with its attempt to secure World Heritage site status for the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex. The issue will be discussed on July 26.

The country's largest national park, covering 2.9-million rai, the forest has been rejected for World Heritage Site status three times, in part due to human rights violations against indigenous Karen villagers.

Early this month, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-archa said up to eight countries had expressed their support for Thailand's proposed listing of the Kaeng Krachan forest complex as a World Heritage Site.

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