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One Law for the rich, another for the poor

Ugly Truth Thailand - February 25, 2018

Giles Ji Ungpakorn Recently Premchai Gunasoot, president of the Italian-Thai Development PLC (ITD) construction company, was arrested in the Tungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, in the west of Thailand, near the Burmese border.

He was in possession of skinned carcasses of protected wild animals, including a black Indochinese leopard, a Kalij pheasant, and a common muntjac, also known as a barking deer, as well as three rifles and ammunition. The area was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1972 and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991.

Apparently the Wildlife Sanctuary officials gave Premchai and his friends VIP treatment for help with their visit, but it is not thought that the Wildlife staff knew that it was in fact an illegal hunting party. A sanctuary patrol came upon their camp and arrested them. Premchai was given bail and not detained. There are questions about whether he might skip the country.

Illegal hunting by rich and powerful elites is commonplace, often involving police and military officers. The collection of grizzly trophies from these illegal hunts is much prized by them and they usually get away with it in much the same way that the elites get away with corruption and the cold-blooded murder of pro-democracy demonstrators.

Many people are now pointing to a poaching scandal involving high ranking police and military officers in the same sanctuary in 1973, which came to light after a helicopter crash. The military junta at the time refused to admit any wrong-doing by anyone. However the incident was one important factor in the rising tide of anger against the military dictatorship, which resulted in half a million people on the streets 6 months later and the overthrow of the regime.

People are also comparing the treatment of rich and powerful poachers with impoverished villagers who are arrested for foraging for food plants in forest reserves. In 2014 two middle-aged villagers from the north-east were jailed for 17 months for merely collecting wild edible mushrooms in a protected forest. After being released from jail they were left with debts from legal fees with no prospects of earning a decent living.

While not condoning the plundering of forest reserves, it is worth pointing out that the collection of fungal fruiting bodies does not actually kill the plant, which remains buried under the ground or embedded inside rotting wood. It can produce more fruiting bodies at a later date. Foraging can even help preserve plants if villagers try to preserve their food source in a sustainable manner. Activists have long called for the local management of forest reserves by collectives of responsible villagers. There is also a history of the state declaring forest reserves on land which has been occupied for generations by forest dwelling villagers.

Efficient nature conservation in Thailand depends on reining in the arrogant power of the elites and big business, democratising society, and putting in place a system of collective management of natural resources by locals.

Source: https://uglytruththailand.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/one-law-for-the-rich-another-for-the-poor/.

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