NCPO evicts 300 park encroachers

NCPO evicts 300 park encroachers

Regime aims to save 4,000 rai of forest

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has claimed success in evicting 300 encroachers from Thab Lan National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima in a crackdown against illegal forest encroachment at the Khao Yai-Dong Phayayen forest complex which began on Saturday.

Udomdej: Now targets Pang Sida park

Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, NCPO secretary-general, said officials have confirmed all the encroachers have been cleared from the park and efforts were under way to evict trespassers from Pang Sida National Park under the same campaign to protect forests and natural resources.

Taywin Meesap, chief of Thab Lan National Park, said the 300 evicted encroachers were local people who were encouraged by certain politicians and former park employees to occupy the land last month.

The group had built makeshift shelters and planted cash crops to lay ownership claim to the land.

A combined force of park rangers, soldiers and policemen who were involved in the eviction campaign seized firearms and rosewood logs from the encroachers, he said.

The encroached park land was located in Khonburi and Serngsang districts of Nakhon Ratchasima province, he said.

Gen Udomdej said that in addition to the eviction campaign at Thab Lan National Park, the combined force was also evicting villagers who have encroached on the forest in other areas including Pang Sida National Park.

He said officials have talked to these villagers and did not expect any problems in moving them from the forest.

Both Thab Lan and Pang Sida national parks, which cover areas in Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachin Buri and Sa Kaeo provinces, are parts of the Khao Yai-Dong Phayayen forest complex which has been declared a UN world heritage site but has faced widespread encroachment by many groups over the past several years.

Niphon Chotiban, chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said the department would first tell encroachers to leave the land to avoid stoking tension.

Legal action would be taken if the villagers refused to comply with the order, he said.

The officials would employ both soft and tough measures to deal with the encroachment problem to try to limit officials' conflicts with the villagers.

The department was expected to be able to reclaim some 4,000 rai of forest land under the military-led eviction campaign, he said.

“We don’t want to see any confrontation. We hope that under the operation we can get 4,000 rai back within two months and we will start to rehabilitate the damaged forest land as soon as possible,” he said.

Nuwat Leelapata, the Pang Sida National Park chief, said forest plantation zones in Pa Takabak in Muang district and Pakok Song in Wattana Nakhon district of Sa Kaeo province were the most seriously affected by the encroachment. He said villagers have illegally occupied some 2,100 rai of land.

Officials on Saturday were able to reclaim about 300 rai of land from the villagers during the eviction operation. Most of the land had been cleared to grow eucalyptus trees.

The villagers told officials they had been paid by local influential figures to encroach on the land.

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