Thailand

Promoting Indigenous Peoples’ rights

Portrait of a person collecting flowers in a field with mountains fading in the background.
Indigenous Peoples’ Foundation for Education and Environment (IPF)

The Thai consortium of organizations convened by the Indigenous Peoples’ Foundation for Education and Environment (IPF) works to promote Indigenous Peoples’ rights, including education, self-determined development, customary land use, and natural resource management.

Under this initiative ICI aims to improve the management of 60,759 hectares in Thailand, engaging 24,696 direct project stakeholders.

KEY ICI GOALS AND INITIATIVES

Promotion and support of land, 
water, and forest resources by IPLCs

Prepare land-use maps based on traditional customs/knowledge Support good practices in resource, water, forest and fire management, as well as food security Institute local regulations and governances Declare special ethnic cultural zones

Creation of understanding and acceptance of rights in resource management in accordance with traditional culture and customs

Conduct dialogues to strengthen collaboration and cooperation among the involved parties Propose laws and policies, especially in promoting Indigenous lifestyles through participation in the name of Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT)

Management of the environment and decrease in the impact of climate change

Conduct research on the management of fires and forest fires for biodiversity conservation by communities based on traditional knowledge and innovation 

Conduct study on the effects of global warming and ways and plans of adaptation to it at the community level

Economic development 
and the establishment of food 
security in IPLC communities

Promote sustainable and appropriate occupations that conform to local ecologies, e.g. bee keeping, eco-tourism, handicrafts and animal raising

Promote recovering of forest to enrich biodiversity, food and NTFPs in cultural landscape

Promote sustainable occupations in dynamic and innovative ways e.g. rotational farming, agro-forestry etc. for community food security and food sovereignty

Advancement of knowledge 
and transmission of traditional 
knowledge to new generations

Develop curricula for transmission of knowledge in the community and school, e.g. study of nature

Promote learning and its transmission (study of nature, children and youth camps, food security festivals, etc.)

People using Charkha outdoors to make yarn.

Introduction To Region

Thailand Geography Map
Country(ies):

Thailand

Approximate area in hectars:

139,743

Indigenous Karen; Hmong; Lisu; Lahu; Iu Mien; Akha; Mani population:

24,696

Global Biodiversity Hotspots and High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas:

Indo-Burma

Key Biodiversity Areas:

Khao Banthad; Ton Nga Chang; Huai Nam Dang; Mae Lao – Mae Sae; Doi Chiang Dao; Doi Inthanon; Doi Suthep-Pui; Mae Fang

Important Bird Areas:

Khao Banthad; Mae Lao – Mae Sae; Doi Chiang Dao; Doi Inthanon; Doi Suthep-Pui; Mae Fang

Protected Areas/Wildlife Management Areas/etc.:

Ob Luang National Park; Mae Ngao National Park; Oob Khan National Park; Huay Nam Dang National Park; Mae Lao-Mae Sae Wildlife Sanctuary; Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary; Banthat Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary

Community forests:

Ban Mae Aoe; Ban Ja Bu See; Ban Ar Bae; Ban Pong Khom; Ban Pang Sa; Ban Pong Pa Kaem

Cabins in thick forest.
Percentage of country’s land area under recognized IP or LC ownership: (Source: RRI: 2015. Who Owns the World’s Land?)

<1%

Number of Land Defenders Killed 2016-2018:  (Source: Global Witness)

1

About thailand

The total landmass of Thailand is 51.12 million hectares, including 25 principal watersheds and 16.35 million hectares of rainforest, which amounts to 31.86% of the country’s area. The area of the subproject includes two main landscapes in Northern Thailand and Southern Thailand. It covers 5 principal watersheds, 21 sub-watersheds, and 2 broad regions, north and south. The total project area is 429,667 hectares. These areas have significant importance with respect to biodiversity, reduction of greenhouse gas emission, and are rich in natural resources needed by the Indigenous groups for their sustenance and livelihood. The geographical areas included in this project have a relatively healthy forest. In some places, the forests are 70% healthy with regard to forest cover and wildlife diversity, such as upper Khun Tae, Mae Pae, Mae Yod, Mae Lai, Huay Mae Lid and Mae Lan Kham watersheds. Studies and surveys of biodiversity by IMPECT over 320 hectares during 2016 to 2019 in Mae Tae village show that the conservation area remains biologically healthy. It also showed the appearance of the rare Rafflesia plant and more than 27 types of vines among 60 varieties of plants, and the tracks of 25 forest animal breeds. The Pgakeunyaw Association for Sustainable Development [PASD] found more than 111 species in Mae Yod community.

The subproject area encompasses 77 communities of 7 ethnic groups in Thailand, namely, Karen, Hmong, Lisu, Lahu, Iu Mien, Akha, and Mani. Thailand’s legal framework allows for some recognition of IPLC use of lands (community title) and forests (community forests). According to Landmark, there is no data on the total area claimed by IPLCs. Many protected areas have been established despite the presence of IPLCs within such areas. Indigenous peoples have not been recognized for many years in Thailand, they have been considered as “wards of the king,” not as full citizens. This is slowly changing, for example with the government supporting cultural activities during International Day of Indigenous Peoples. People rely on forests as an important resource base for community food production, for example, the collection of forest mushrooms, gardens and orchards, and wet and dry rice cultivation, provides food and income to inhabitants. However, rotational agriculture practices used by IPLCs have been used as a reason to evict them from their territories, claiming that these practices destroy forests and contribute to climate change. In the south, the 12 Mani communities are hunter-gatherers and their culture and lifestyle differs from other ethnic groups. The Mani communities do not accumulate food for future consumption and, thus, they are more mobile and use wider areas in comparison to the agriculture-based communities.

Indigenous economic activities:

  • Agriculture
  • Livestock
  • Agroforestry
  • Non-timber Forest Products (NTFPs)
  • Tourism
  • Fishing
  • Hunting

Challenges and threats:

  • Agricultural expansion and commercialization
  • Deforestation, overgrazing, and overexploitation of wildlife and other natural resources
  • National and Regional Policies and Plans linked to tenure security
  • Loss of Indigenous knowledge
  • Globalization, integration into market economy, influence of Western culture, lack of recognition of traditional systems

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