Islanders rail against national park order

Islanders rail against national park order

SURAT THANI: Locals from Koh Taen in Koh Samui district submitted a petition on Wednesday against a plan by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP) to include the island and neighbouring area in the soon-to-be-established Hat Khanom-Mu Koh Thale Tai National Park.

Kampanat Klinsaowakon, the district chief, accepted the petition from Thanakom Ruenpanich, leader of the Rak Koh Taen Club, who took a group of 58 locals to hand it over.

According to Mr Thanakom, the letter, addressed to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, demanded those involved cancel the announcement on the island's inclusion in the national park, as Koh Taen already has a well-established community dating back some 200 years.

The island, said Mr Thanakom, is home to at least 300 locals, who work mainly on coconut plantations and in the fisheries industry.

Apart from a school, hospital and monastery, the island features a wealth of biodiversity that attracts many conservationists, with highlights including a coral reef and a mangrove forest.

Plans are afoot to install submarine electronic cables there, a measure the government reportedly approved.

However, the DNP plans to include its land and waters, which extend at least three nautical miles around the island, as well as 10 neighbouring isles in tambon Taling Ngam, in the national park.

Locals claim this will create problems associated with environmental preservation as well as their own livelihoods, as some depend on the income they earn from working in those areas.

Some of those areas -- Koh Taen, Koh Rab, and Koh Mudsum -- have land deeds attached to locals' plantations, which they say makes their inclusion unnecessary.

The plan also will affect the submarine cable project to bring electricity in from the mainland, said Mr Thanakom.

The national park posted on Facebook that the DNP had cut 73,197 rai out of the 197,614 rai of the park's potential area since the project started in 1990.

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