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The environmental injustices of illegal logging within a Karen village in western Thailand.

Authors: Sophie Lewis*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Natural Resources, Asia
Keywords: Political ecology, Equity, Forest governance, Racialized landscapes, Violence
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual Track 2
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In Thailand, the illegal logging of luxury timber species and forest encroachment in natural forests continue. The Royal Forest Department reported a steady rate of cases of illegal logging from 2009 – 2018, ranging from 2,999 to 4,520. Government orders introduced in 2014 to stem Illegal logging and forest encroachment pointed the blame of said activities towards rural and ethnic communities leading to the dispossession of some communities from their land, the burning of crops and arrests. This paper examines the system of governance, driving illegal logging and forest encroachment in Thailand and the environmental injustices produced through such a system. I draw from three-months of ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in a Karen village in the buffer zone of a Wildlife Sanctuary in western Thailand and a systematic review of the literature relating to illegal logging and forest loss at the national level. The results of this research highlight how government laws and policies restricting ethnic communities land and resource rights, corrupt networks between state actors and gangs, and the supply chain model of a multi-national agricultural business, interact within the Karen village to produce forest loss, poverty and other social costs such as drug addiction. Critical insights from the research indicate that the current system of forest landscape governance in Thailand drives forest loss and the production of inequalities, with the state, gangs and agricultural businesses accumulating resources and wealth through the dispossession and labour of ethnic communities.

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