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Forests | 26 July 2021

Legal Assessment: Thailand’s Community Forest Act
Communities & forests
Asia & the Pacific

PDF | 3537 kb

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Legal Assessment: Thailand’s Community Forest Act

ClientEarth and RECOFTC have published the first ever legal assessment of Thailand’s Community Forest Act.

The assessment provides guidance to strengthen the Community Forest Act and its implementing regulation to help Thailand reach its targets of 1.6 million hectares of forests under community forestry by 2025, including 15,000 registered community forests.

It seeks to help inform and assist the government, civil society organizations and legal experts in Thailand, but can also be applied by governments developing similar community forestry legislation in the region and around the world.

By using ClientEarth’s Community Forestry Toolkit, this assessment found that the Community Forest Act is a positive step towards sustainable management of forests in Thailand.

It strengthens the recognition of the role of communities in managing forests, by identifying the main activities that can be carried out by forest communities.

These include entering the forest for recreation, earning benefits from products and services, like collecting forest products and using timber for household and public activities, and using the forest for educational purposes. While communities can’t live in these forests, they can use them in sustainable ways.

Whenever community forests are established under approved management plans, communities can use the forests and its resources for their livelihoods. The authorities will approve a community’s forestry management plan at first for five years, with the possibility of renewal.

While the Act is a good start, there are improvements that can be made to strengthen community rights. One issue is that the legal framework in Thailand does not recognise customary tenure or free, prior and informed consent rights of local communities and indigenous peoples.

It also does not mention women, youth, disabled or minorities. Nor does it impose the creation of a benefit-sharing mechanism.

The assessment provides 10 ways to strengthen the Act, including through regulations that support community internal governance, benefit sharing and conflict resolution. Policy-makers should now develop supporting legislation that can ensure the Act is enforceable and implementable in practice.