farmers fight 'warming'
fines By Prangtip Daorueng
BANGKOK - Small farmers in the Baan Pra
village of Thailand's southern Trang province have
been living in anxiety ever since they were
slapped with stiff fines by the government in 2006
and ordered to vacate their ancestral lands for
contributing to global warming.
month, the villagers, after suffering bankruptcy
and loss of land, appealed in an administrative
court against a controversial formula used by the
Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant
Conservation under the Environment Ministry to
compute the fines and evict them.
Pra's ordeal is not an isolated. Thousands of
smallholders with farmlands abutting national
forests have been in distress ever
since the Environment
Ministry began enforcing the 1992 National
Environmental Quality Act five years ago.
According to the Land Reform Network
(LRN), which represents community-based farming
throughout the country, about 2,000 small farmers
have been booked for contributing to global
warming. LRN is one of five civil society groups
assisting the Baan Pra villagers in resisting the
The law prohibits "destruction,
loss or damage to natural resources owned by the
state" and allows the government to take legal
action against those farming in and around
national forest areas.
In 2004, the
Environment Ministry announced its intention to
use a formula to determine economic loss from
global warming caused by forest encroachment and
compute the fines.
"Being charged for
causing global warming and fined sums of money
they never dreamt of owning were a big shock to
the villagers," said Boon Saejung, LRN coordinator
in Baantad mountain area which covers four
southern provinces including Trang.
According to Boon, farmers in the area
have survived for generations on produce from
their ancestral lands, long before the government
proclaimed them as national parks. Most of them
own plots no bigger than 24,000 square meters.
With the new laws being enforced, many have been
dispossessed of their lands.
IPS from Trang over telephone, Boon said farmers
were not only forced off their land but in many
cases have watched their crops being cut down by
officials claiming they were empowered to do so to
preserve national forests.
told to leave their lands, but many decided to
stay on simply because they had nowhere to go," he
The ministry's formula claims to
measure environmental damage under several
categories such as increase in temperature caused
by cutting down trees, loss of soil through
erosion, and decrease in rainfall.
found guilty of contributing to global warming are
required to pay fines as high as 150,000 baht
(US$4,840 dollars) per rai (1,600 sq m) per year -
an amount of money that far exceeds the annual
income of most smallholder farmers.
Prayong Dooklamyai, an LRN advisor in
northern Chiang Mai province, told IPS that the
use of the "global warming damage formula" has
been widespread since 2006 and that many farmers
have had their assets seized.
a farmer from northeastern Chayaphum province,
told the Isra News Agency of the Thai Journalists'
Association that nine farmers in his village have
been fined 150,000 baht each by the ministry for
"encroachment" and have had their crop trees cut
Environmental NGOs along with
affected farmers have been trying to negotiate the
abolishment of the formula since 2007. "The
government in its policy statement last year
promised to solve the problems regarding global
warming cases, but we have not seen any concrete
action so far," Prayong said.
questioned the formula's accuracy. Even the man
who devised it, Pongsak Wittawarchutikul, a
national park department specialist, has admitted
that parts of it need to be adjusted and made more
Last month, the National Human
Rights Commission (NHRC) summoned 30 stakeholders
in the climate change dispute to testify as part
of a process to find a solution to the problem.
Makarapirom, a retired forest department
specialist, said there was a need to research the
real ecological value of agricultural areas,
especially organic plantations and mixed-orchards.
It was possible, he said, that the orchards have
ecological value and that both production and the
ecological balance can be sustained.
Boon and Prayong from LRN, the global warming
dispute reflects the double standards on
environmental issues. The way the formula is being
applied violates community rights as defined in
the country's constitution as well as the people's
traditional way of life.
According to the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change, in 2000, industry and energy production in
Thailand accounted for approximately 75% of the
country's greenhouse gas emissions while the
agricultural sector was responsible for only 22%.
Critics of the formula question why
small-scale farmers are being singled out for
punishment on environmental damage charges, using
the global warming formula.
farmers nor their communities are the main
contributors to global warming. They are now
facing unjust measures and there is a need to find
a solution to this," Boon said.