Puginier, Oliver: Hill tribes struggling for a land deal: Participatory land use planning in northern Thailand amid controversial policies


Kapitel 6. Evaluation of the planning approach and outlook

“For a future-oriented and sustainable land management the question of land tenure and legal presence is of prime importance. The trust that has been built up over a long period will eventually be destroyed again if the threat of relocation remains.“ (limchoowong and oberhauser 1995,22)

The above statement reiterates the persistent fear that underlies highland development after decades of research and development projects, and as it gets to the stage of political implementation from within, it is perhaps only natural that most bilateral programmes have withdrawn. If one goes back to the two key conditions the FAO has defined for planning to be useful, then the first one of changes in land use being accepted by the people involved has been fulfilled (fao 1993,1), as hill tribes are in transition towards permanent agriculture and government agencies make efforts to coordinated planning. For the hill tribe farmers this meant a total change in livelihood practices, agriculture and more recently the integration into the Thai administration. The participatory CLM process initiated by the TG-HDP has influenced as well as supported the target villages to move away from shifting cultivation towards permanent agriculture. However, judging from most discussions and problem elaborations, the whole process is still perceived as a forceful change imposed on hill tribes, rather than a joint planning effort supported by government agencies. In this situation of uncertainty, farmers have developed a number of strategies to overcome land security problems, and these strategies will be used as an entry point in the analysis of the proposed planning model, tools employed for surveys and the impact of continuously changing government policy.

6.1 Resilient problems and hill tribe strategies

“CLM implementation has been accepted at the provincial policy level. As a result, relocation programmes have been stopped. Government officers now agree that humans can live in harmony with the forest, accept the value of indigenous knowledge and the capability of community organisations with regard to NRM issues.“ (Anonymous 1998,vol.1,44)

The final statement of the TG-HDP on natural resource management implies that the second key condition for land use planning has also been achieved, but if one examines the local situation in more detail, the impact of the political situation becomes clearer. A number of problems or conflicts have been revealed through the combination of participatory mapping and interviews, which indicate that the CLM approach has still not been accepted at provincial policy level and questions the future of land use planning. The diversity of survey areas has enabled the identification of a broad range of problems, so that the focus on mapping for planning purposes has perhaps not solved problems, instead it revealed and exposed them.

The most common problem was rice insufficiency or a decrease in upland rice yields as fallow periods gradually decrease. The problem is most severe in Pa Charoen, which was the smallest village and had the highest population density of 160 people/km2. In other villages the decrease in rice yields ranges from a reduction of the former seed/yield ratio of 1:60 down to 1:30 or even 1:15, hence villagers have to find alternatives to meet their rice needs. The only villages where the rice demand can be met with paddy rice are Huai Hea and Huai Tong, as other villages either have no paddy land (Pa Charoen and Huai Hee) or are not allowed to grow paddy due to the protected forest status (Luk Kao Lam, Bor Krai). The decrease in rice yields is the result of population increase and the government‘s insistence on shorter fallow periods with the threat of land confiscation on long fallow areas, as mentioned by villagers from Huai Tong, Bor Krai and Huai Hee. Alternatives to upland rice include fruit trees like in Pa Charoen and Huai Tong, intensified livestock like in Bor Krai and ecotourism like Huai Hee and Bor Krai village, with the aim to raise cash for the purchase of additional rice. While in Pang Ma Pha only Bor Krai had started on a small scale with guided tours of the nearby fish cave, Huai Hee has embarked on a comprehensive programme. This issue attracted quite some attention at the community leader cross-visit programme at the end of May 1998 prior to the TG-HDP workshop, particularly when Lahu leaders saw the set-up in Huai Hee.


Environmental awareness and appreciation for the cultural heritage of hill tribes, including aspects of ecotourism for income diversification, are encouraged by the NGO Inter Mountain People Education and Culture in Thailand (IMPECT) for the Karen, based in Chiang Mai (Trakarnsuphakorn 1997).

The second most common problem relates to the management of forest and fallow areas, as all villages with upland areas mentioned conflicts with the Royal Forest Department (RFD) like land confiscation. The fear of confiscation was most clearly displayed in the RFD surveys in Luk Kao Lam, Bor Krai, Huai Hee and Huai Tong, which exposed the villagers‘ strategy of declaring more land under cultivation than actually used, sometimes up to double the amount, in order to keep enough for subsistence. A further farmer strategy to keep swidden fields is to interplant hedgerows at regular intervals in fallow areas, particularly employed by the Karen, so that forest officials perceive this land as cultivated. This conflict was already described ten years ago as a paradox punishment for forest preservation (anonymous 1991,3), and the fact that it still occurs is an indication for the lack of a common understanding and appreciation of the Karen fallow systems. In addition, after the closure of the TG-HDP in September 1998, upland farming was seriously threatened by the new Governor of Mae Hong Son province, who only allowed two-year fallow periods on uplands and only two upland fields per household. Farmers overstepping this limit have been arrested, fined and areas in excess confiscated. Additionally, RFD has the permission to confiscate fallow land with trees that have a breast diameter of more than 10 cm to declare it permanent forest.

The third main problem complex refers to boundaries of demarcated fields within villages as well as with neighbouring villages, for there was a lot of confusion over outer user boundaries and to what extent they are recognised by government authorities. Some villagers even expressed the fear of the whole village being forcefully relocated, particularly in Luk Kao Lam, but most of them felt that a boundary is a concept imposed by outsiders, with little relevance within a village and no recognition by the government. The confusion was increased when village committees saw the boundaries that the Department of Local Administration (DOLA) set at the time of village registration in combination with the classification by the Department of Land Development (DLD) in terms of potential for permanence. This brought to light the lack of an official structured method for demarcation and zonation. Related to this is the lack of confidence and ability to update topographic models and village maps, for besides the fact that villagers feel insecure, they question the usefulness of updating without a clear purpose for planning. At policy level, the cabinet resolution of 30 June 1998, which cancelled the positive step taken a year before in favour of limited forest settlement, increased the feeling of insecurity. This raises the issue of whether models and maps will not backfire and be used to confiscate swidden fields instead of building on the achievements of the past.

If one compares the above problem complexes, which either have always persisted or have been revealed during the research, to the principles of participatory land use planning (Chapter 2.4.3 and gtz 1995,8), then these principles seem more like an ideal guideline instead of reality. Approaches like an orientation to local cultural conditions, a cooperation of all stakeholders, transparency and free access to information have not been possible or were not politically wanted, which made it so difficult to develop a research method that takes care of all these factors. On the positive side, a number of these issues were more broadly exposed through the research. With regards to some of the underlying issues of land security and communal forest management, a brief overview to what extent land zonation and demarcation are compatible with traditional forms of land tenure and forest perceptions illustrates some difficulties.

6.2 Land classification and forest types

As highland development projects started to apply various land use planning approaches that included varying extents of local participation, this meant a fundamental change for hill tribes with their traditional forms of land tenure and communal forest management. From the beginning the Thai language was used in all extension campaigns, so hill tribes not only had to become familiar with the northern Thai terminology for types of land, but also had to change their traditional perceptions to match the new language that was used for all official demarcations. All the topographic models and village maps use the Thai terminology, and categories either had to adapt to this classification or disappear.


6.2.1 Land tenure terminology

The traditional land tenure systems show a great variety in categorisation and individual ownership, whereby there is a marked contrast between established shifting cultivation systems of the northern Thai, Karen as well as Lua, and the more recent pioneer systems of the Lisu, Lahu and Hmong. The pioneer systems traditionally did not have a notion of individual land ownership; instead the more powerful traditional leaders used the land easiest to farm, while other farmers had to manage with more remote areas. The whole situation was of a very temporary nature, since not only were fields always abandoned in the search for new ones, but the whole village also migrated. There is very little information on historical individual land ownership, a situation that only changed recently with the establishment of permanent villages and permanent paddy fields that quickly became the most valued land. Therefore the concept is a very recent one for pioneer swiddeners, and in Pang Ma Pha it was introduced by the TG-HDP extension campaigns. This explains why villagers started to mark individual upland fields on topographic models and village maps when they joined the CLM approach, as the early campaigns were coupled with hopes for land titles. When these did not materialise, the disappointment was considerable and villagers soon also stopped the production of village land use maps, as they were felt to be of little use. As land use information began to be aggregated at Tambon level, individual fields were also left out in favour of land zonation, even for the most valued paddy land in Huai Hea village for example.

The situation is quite different for rotational swiddeners like the Karen, and none of the village maps in Huai Poo Ling showed individual upland fields. Historically, the Karen believed in a mountain spirit who is the protector of the land, and a religious leader called “Zikho“ had the authority to allocate land that belonged to the community to individual households (ganjanapan 2000,159). Land in private ownership includes paddy land as the most valued land, orchards and house gardens. As the Karen were progressively integrated into Thai society, the authority of land allocation was transferred to the village headman. The notion of common land still persists and includes swidden land, animal grazing grounds, watershed areas and forest areas for hunting and gathering of forest products. The Karen even have a sophisticated terminology for swidden land (called “ker“) depending on the length of fallow, ranging from 1-2 fallow years to 3-4 fallow years, then 5-6 fallow years and for more than 7 fallow years (Itthiponolan 1998,9). However, for official planning purposes only the cultivation year is marked on maps, and all swidden fields are labelled “thi rai“, a term that traditionally designated field crops in northern Thailand. Other Thai land categories include paddy land (“thi na“), gardens and fruit trees, (“thi suan“), and grazing areas (“thi liang sat“). The area inside the outer user boundary is called village area (“khet muban“) and in Thai implies the entire extent of the village, including all agricultural areas. The fact that villagers may have land beyond these boundaries is rejected for official planning purposes and this land does not exist anymore. This is the terminology that is used on all models, maps and documents.

6.2.2 Forest types

The situation for forest types and their categorisation is more complex, as the Karen have a highly sophisticated terminology for forest types based on location, proximity to water and type of water source, hilltop forests and holy grounds (na ayuthaya 1997, 124; Itthiponolan 1998,23). The Lahu distinguish a smaller diversity of forest types, yet these also differ from the Thai terminology (S. ganjanapan 1997,248). The diversity of forest categories is not reflected in the official Thai terminology, which has a term for conservation forest in general (“pa anurak“) and one for forest reserves (“pa raksa“). A term that creates some confusion is the northern Thai term for watershed forest (“pa ton nam“), for it is not included in the official RFD terminology (S. ganjanapan 1997,254). Land use maps of Huai Hea and Luk Kao Lam demarcate watershed forest as a separate area apart from conservation forest, yet villagers are unclear about this distinction, as it does not correspond to their traditional classification and hence a clear boundary between these forest types is alien to the villagers‘ perception. In contrast, Karen villages demarcate all this area as conservation forest. The term for communal woodland or multipurpose forest (“pa chai soi“) is clearly understood by all villages, as it corresponds more to their own notion of forest areas for wood and other product extraction. There remains one difference regarding hunting, which traditionally was allowed in this forest, yet is officially forbidden by the government, particularly in the villages of Luk Kao Lam and Bor Krai within the wildlife sanctuary boundaries.


One category of forest emerged from the Buddhist approach to development of the 1970s and is often described as a traditional classification (ganjanapan 2000, 6), namely the sacred forest (“pa buat“). Hill tribes in the survey areas were all Christians with remnants of animistic traditions, and their terminology recognises more than one type of sacred forest, so that the Buddhist term that is widely used for enforcement of community rights is still relatively new to them. Buddhist monks perform a tree consecration ceremony in a community forest by wrapping yellow robes around the tree trunks, which is meant to reconstruct a village‘s right as the protector of the forest in the negotiation with the state for the recognition of community forestry. Such a ceremony was performed in Huai Poo Ling in early 1998 and an area of 1,000 ha has been demarcated on the Tambon map of Huai Poo Ling, yet on the Tambon model this type of forest had the same colour as the surrounding conservation forest. TAO members saw this demarcation as a chance to have their land classifications recognised by the government during the public readings of the Community Forestry Act and meetings of the Northern Farmers Network, and used copies of the Tambon map in poster size for their campaign and repeated demonstrations in Bangkok. This shows the resourcefulness and willingness to use all means available to hill tribe farmers in their struggle for a land deal. To what extent this forest category will eventually be recognised officially remains speculation. Land categorisation has thus become a mixture of traditional perceptions and Thai extension activities, resulting in classifications that do not match the prevalent watershed classes identified by the forest department RFD. Until there is a clear legislation and respective extension campaigns to clarify the terminology, confusion over parallel classifications will prevail.

6.3 Topographic models and GIS application

The usefulness of results is based on the data quality as well as on the nature of projects or organisations that might apply them. The research project changed from a technical approach with the use of remote sensing, satellite imagery and GIS to a more descriptive one based on a very particular policy framework in Southeast Asia that still renders participatory land use planning in the highlands illegal, even after 20 years of development programmes. This also affected the data quality and work methods, for detailed satellite imagery and aerial photographs were refused by the Royal Survey Department (RSD) on security grounds of border areas. Some old photographs on a scale of 1:50,000 were eventually made available, but as the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) in Chiang Mai confirmed, a higher resolution is required for work at village and Tambon level. The same applies to GIS, for there was no GIS programme, nor a database for Mae Hong Son at the TG-HDP. It was later only possible to work with a trial version from Chulalongkorn University, which was handed over to ICRAF upon leaving Thailand.

One may question whether a development project should work with those means on its own and to what extent a small research project should introduce such complex and expensive technology, a matter debated for land use planning in Asia (eller 1996,52). On the other hand, the employment of even a simplified Beta version of GIS enabled the documentation of local land use classification at village and Tambon level, as well as the overlay of boundaries drawn by DOLA upon village registration, an approach that to date is new in Thailand. Thereby the contradictory policy framework was illustrated graphically, yet this controversy could have been displayed even better had RFD made the restrictive watershed classification available for inclusion. The combination of three-dimensional information in the form of models with digitised two-dimensional maps is assessed in terms of the extent they are indeed complimentary (rambaldi and callosa-tarr 2000,20), or whether the participatory aspect remains an apparent “Oxymoron“ (abbot et al. 1998,27). The combined approach brought to light unresolved issues that focus on who can update land use maps, to what extent this is indeed a participatory process, the danger of misuse in terms of land confiscation for reforestation, and necessary policy changes so that these tools can be used in a constructive manner. With regards to up-scaling, it is useful to differentiate between village and Tambon level, particularly as the institutional dimensions of coordinated planning mainly rest with the Tambon as the lowest level of government representation.

6.3.1 Village level

The issue of local concerns has been achieved to the extent that each village as a whole agreed on the area demarcations, which for planning purposes is a step forward from rough sketching without


geographic references. This also applies to boundaries with neighbouring villages, with the exception of the western boundary of Huai Hea. As with fields outside the boundary, villagers have resigned to the fact that these will eventually be lost, although this is a considerable sacrifice for them. As for the compliance with government priorities, villagers have displayed the willingness to set aside a large part as conservation forest in line with government reforestation interests. Villages also fulfil criteria as permanent settlements with elected village leaders. When conducting land use planning, the most common form of data display is still land use mapping, though the use of three-dimensional topographic models is more transparent to villagers than two-dimensional maps. However, villagers with more mapping skills favoured the more detailed maps in poster format over Tambon models with crude land categories. This insight only came as data was transferred to Tambon models and overlapping areas or the omission of paddy fields due to small sizes was noticed. Although Pang Ma Pha had only a few village maps, TAO representatives from Huai Hea and Bor Krai compared their maps with what was drawn on the Tambon model and raised the question of future updates as well as responsible agencies.

The inclusion of the boundary drawn by DOLA at village registration attracted a lot of attention, as none of the villagers had received documents with the demarcations. So having those included on the drawing confirmed their fear of losing land and made them wonder why the TG-HDP or any other agency had not considered this issue. In future it must be assumed that government agencies will only recognise DOLA boundaries, not those of the villagers, unless there is a chance for these to be redrawn. If this should become possible, then the results described in this thesis can be used as a starting point to illustrate incoherence. Linked to boundaries is the fact the population will continue to grow and new villages will be formed, so the process of taking land from the old village to allocate it to the new village has to be formalised. Village boundaries may cause tension as in the case of Huai Hea with new village Phapuak or it may happen in mutual agreement as in the case of Bor Krai and its former village of origin Cho Bo. This calls for a standard procedure that is transparent to affected villagers and mutually recognised, an approach that to date does not exist and thus leaves room for manipulation and favours based on relations with the district office.

The major shortcomings are based on the lack of a clear policy for highland development. The Royal Forest Department (RFD) refuses to recognise the land demarcations and continues to confiscate land, and the Department of Local Administration (DOLA) does not use village demarcations when registering villages, thus questioning the trust farmers placed in them as they participated in the CLM approach of the TG-HDP. The early breakdown of the Land Use Planning Teams (anonymous 1998,vol.1,33) indicates that planning in agreement with government representatives never really worked, as the policy dichotomy between forest protection and permanent agriculture was never resolved, and there is as yet no coordinated highland planning. This also refers to the two key conditions FAO states for planning to be useful, namely the need for changes being accepted by all stakeholders and, even more important, the political will to put plans into effect (fao 1993,1). As long as whatever plans, be they in text or map form, can be overturned, there is no basis for a stable planning platform. Unclear land rights continue to be a “killer assumption“ (betke 1994,137) in the hill tribes‘ struggle for a land deal, and the on-going long-term land titling project continues to leave out the sensitive highlands in the absence of a policy framework (rattanabirabongse et al. 1998,10).

Shortcomings also apply to the access of hill tribes to decision-making power and public knowledge, as the ownership of data has shifted in favour of outside agencies. Mapping revealed the extent and type of land use, which has led to land confiscation by RFD and the provincial Governor. This situation defeats the purpose of participatory planning, particularly since it is not backed up by a policy framework other than the restrictive watershed classification of 1983. There is no justification for land confiscation, with the exception of breaching demarcated conservation forest areas, but since RFD can reverse any demarcation, there is only a limited basis for hill tribes that would encourage long-term planning jointly with the government.

The issue of updating digitised maps is completely out of the control of villagers, as seen in all villages, and requires an interest and cooperative approach by planning agencies for regular consultation. For villagers, even updating models is difficult, as shown in the case of the satellite village Pa Charoen (Pang Ma Pha), which was left with an incomplete model after the closure of the TG-HDP. On a technical scale


the research was conducted with a Beta version of the Arc View GIS programme, meaning a trial version for evaluation prior to its official release, and there are errors in the programme that would need to be corrected should it really be used one day. If a system is set up properly it can also include data on marketing, yields, soil series and erosion indexes for map combinations. Here there is an important potential role for the development of a monitoring & evaluation system with a nationally accessible database as proposed in the current national plan (nesdb 1997,148), but would only be meaningful under a mutually agreed development plan for the highlands.

6.3.2 Tambon level

The same local concerns apply at Tambon level with questions of whether it would not be better to stick to topographic models only. Here local concerns show a clear priority for outer village boundaries as in the example of Bor Krai, which is more difficult to display on a small printout of a Tambon map, but can be done on poster size. One reason why it is so important for villagers to demarcate outer user boundaries at Tambon level is related to the hope of recognised land rights or titles, which in the early days of CLM had been expressed individually (anonymous 1998,vol.1,46). Now that these villages are registered and village leaders are members of the Tambon Administrative Organisations (TAO), they reiterate their hope to obtain land rights at communal level. The idea is not entirely new to Thailand when looking back at the concept of Forest Villages initiated in 1975, where settlements were established in forests and land was allocated to families with certified occupancy rights, while government agencies were to develop amenities (hafner and apichatvullop 1990,337). This programme was designed for Thais only and hill tribes were excluded, but as nearly 90 % of hill tribes in the TG-HDP areas have gained Thai citizenship, they would qualify for the same rights should the approach be discussed anew, even in modified form.

Under the current process of decentralisation, the TAO act was a big step forward to include registered hill tribe villages in the Thai administration, and the second Master Plan for Highland Development supports that. Particularly the aggregation of land use demarcations gives a better picture of the whole situation than at village level, including aspects of access to water for irrigation, the size and location of common forest areas like the ordained forest in Huai Poo Ling, and also the forest fragmentation as new villages are registered and demarcate their agricultural areas. However, as long as the Royal Forest Department (RFD) and the Department of Land Development (DLD) are not represented at TAOs and in the District Hill Tribe Committee, joint planning with a common goal is not possible. It is very difficult to obtain the commitment from farmers for planning if two key agencies are absent in the decision-making bodies. The absence of these key agencies at Tambon and district level are inconsistent with the aims of the 8th NESDP that calls for participation of local communities, and this once again reveals the highly political nature of forest management (Ganjanapan 1998,73). Hopefully the next Master Plan due for 2002 can set a framework for the inclusion of all relevant agencies at district level with respective mandates and defined roles in the administration of the highlands.

One potential to deal with these differing priorities at Tambon level could evolve from the current restructuring project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) as part of the ongoing process of decentralisation. A part of this reform at grass-roots level has been the introduction of Technology Transfer Centres (TTC) initiated in 1998 with 82 TTCs established nationwide by the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE), with the aim to cover all Tambons in the next few years (GTZ 2001,14). Tambon Huai Poo Ling and Pang Ma Pha will eventually also be included in this approach that began with more central areas. There are plans to link new TTCs with TAOs, of which all registered villages are members of, and TAOs will become the major future channel for the transmission of funds and resources, though the details of responsibilities are still developed. In the past DOAE was absent from all natural resource management activities in the highlands, a situation that is incomprehensible, but it seems that this institutional gap will finally be addressed. As laudable as this intervention may be, it remains to be seen to what extent it can really be implemented, for the documents related to the restructuring of the ministry do not define clear mandates for agencies. The mere membership of key implementing agencies does not solve practical problems of application and mandate definition, therefore the political will for implementation has to be demonstrated. One need only recall the failure of the Thai Forestry Sector Master Plan (rfd 1993), which was formulated with similar foreign support but was never implemented. This may serve as a warning that new policy directions do not necessarily lead to their enactment in the


form of a law. For the time being, topographic models are more suitable for planning at Tambon level and easier to update, but should TTCs be properly equipped in future and highland policies harmonised, digitised maps will gain importance for the relative ease of updating information.

6.4 Government agencies in communal planning

Given the uncertainty of highland policies, some government agencies have nevertheless attempted to deal with sectoral issues on a limited scale. DLD has produced an extension book on land capability in Mae Hong Son (dld 1994). It focuses on nine areas surveyed for the resolution of controversial land use as a priority for lower lying areas, though funds are lacking to cover the whole province. In response to the Cabinet Resolutions of April 1997 regarding land settlement in forest areas, there has even been an attempt by the RFD provincial office in Chiang Mai to solve land use conflicts (rfd 1997), but the preface still shows the priorities when it states that 70 % of the land is in “perfect condition“, meaning under forest cover. The proposal only refers to degraded conservation forest in lower lying areas and excludes the issue of land titles. Some RFD staff in Mae Hong Son is in favour of the CLM approach and joint planning with hill tribes, and this even extends to the Community Forestry Division in Bangkok (lLimchoowong, personal communication), but unless the laws and mandates are changed, individual officers will not go against official policy. The recent revocation on 30 June 1998 of the April 1997 resolutions granting limited settlement in forest areas shows the continuous lack of a unified policy for highland development and should serve as a warning on the fragility of participatory land use planning efforts in the highlands.

There are a number of institutional implications from this study, yet with the particular situation that the process of institutionalisation of participatory land use planning occurs largely without the influence of bilateral development projects, as most of them have been terminated. At the same time, the current restructuring of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, with an Asian Development Bank (ADB) grant (GTZ 2001), could be used as an opportunity to rectify policy contradictions such as a needed revision of the restrictive watershed classification using proposed alternatives that also consider the needs of local people (knie and möller 1999,146). Some experiences of GIS application at village level and when aggregating data at Tambon level could be used for this approach, such as degazetting (or removal from the RFD authority) areas for agricultural use. Another controversial topic is land titles, which were uncommon in Thailand in the past (chalamwong and feder 1988, 132), but due to overall improved infrastructure even hill tribes have become aware of the on-going Thailand Land Titling Project (rattanabirabongse et al. 1998) and hope to be included in that programme. In terms of national plans, the Second Highland Master Plan as well as the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan both expire this year, so that the above issues could be addressed in new plans.

In this context the Tambon could evolve as the true interface between the government and society, both in terms of a technical perspective with new Technology Transfer Centres (TTC), as well as an administrative one with existing Tambon Administrative Organisations (TAOs). The proposed plans to link TTCs with TAOs (gtz 2001,15) need to consider the importance of representation of key agencies like forestry (RFD) and land development (DLD) for aspects of land management in TAOs, as well as local administration (DOLA) and social welfare (DPW) for the registration of villages with clear and agreed boundaries. The mandate for TTCs could rest with the extension department (DOAE) in the development of information and the provision of training to familiarise village leaders with the planning structures of the government. Even more important is recognition of hill tribe land demarcations, which ideally would be carried out in agreement with DLD and RFD. This idea goes back to the land use planning teams initially proposed by the TG-HDP and there is a risk of failure, but there is a difference as to whether such teams are imposed from a foreign project or whether a similar set-up is developed by the local stakeholders themselves. In this sense the seeds for development were sown in the past and may emerge in modified form within local organisations. Additional support will come from the Pang Ma Pha Hill Tribe Network that goes beyond the administrative government delimitations. Or looking at it in another way, the ongoing process of democratisation makes it more and more difficult for the government not to address participatory resource management.


6.5 A proposed approach

In line with the repeated claim for participation in a bottom-up land use planning approach, it is proposed that the process starts at village level. In this sense one should not speak of a start, since Pang Ma Pha and Huai Poo Ling have benefited from many years of TG-HDP intervention that have shaped and modified land use systems. In the absence of yet to be established Technology Transfer Centres (TTC), it is possible to build upon past experiences and develop a system that can be integrated into the new government extension approach at the time it reaches these remote areas. A bottom-up approach would need to focus on the three main problem areas identified during the research, namely rice sufficiency, forest fallow management, and village boundaries.

Rice sufficiency or in a larger sense food sufficiency in rice-based farming systems is a problem that villagers cannot solve on their own, particularly since they are undergoing an externally pushed fundamental change of their cultivation methods. Here the prime responsibility for governmental support lies with two agencies; the Department of Land Development (DLD) in the promotion, subsidisation and monitoring of soil and water conservation technologies, as well as the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE) in the supply of information and external inputs like improved varieties, fertilizer and livestock vaccination schemes. Particularly with rice it is important to also consider hill tribes preferences for traditional upland rice varieties that are more adapted to the highland environment and have a particular taste, though they require more land, yield less per area and take more time to mature (v. keer et al. 1998,116). The Highland Rice Research Station in Pang Ma Pha is the suitable institution to carry out such research and develop improvements (rerkasem and rerkasem 1994,92).

The issue of forest management and fallow regeneration goes back to the restrictive and outdated watershed classification as well as the government‘s perception that agriculture may only be carried out on permanent plots, to the point of categorical rejection of fallow systems. Fortunately the situation has changed in favour of improved fallow systems as Alternatives to Slash and Burn (ASB) activities by ICRAF (suraswadi et al. 2000), but with to date no official recognition from the forest department. It is time for a modified watershed classification that goes beyond a fixation on forest cover and reforestation with monocultures from which the primary stakeholders cannot benefit. Reforestation of degraded areas can be carried out with the inclusion of local people in order to consider preferences for certain tree species and other forest products as identified by the Pang Ma Pha Hill Tribe Network, and also to enable a controlled forest utilisation as set out in village land use regulations. Ideally, village representatives would be employed by the Royal Forest Department (RFD) as forest guardians for those areas in the immediate vicinity of the village, thereby drawing on the notion of ownership of natural resources in combination with responsibility and liability for their maintenance. To date RFD has been reluctant to employ hill tribe farmers for the fear of relinquishing control (limchoowong, personal communication), but the necessity to include local people gains importance. The increasing pressure for the recognition of community rights (ganjanapan 2000,5) that accompanies the debate over a Community Forestry Act (CFA), further supported by the new constitution of 1997, enhances this development.

The third complex of village boundaries may at first seem to only have administrative implications linked to Thai citizenship and village registration (aguettant 1996). Yet when villagers lose cultivation areas to newly registered villages as in the case of Huai Hea and Bor Krai, or when the Department of Local Administration (DOLA) identifies outer boundaries that cut off agricultural areas, then this affects land use planning directly, for farmers cannot count on this land to meet their livelihood needs. The consequences of upland confiscation by RFD are of the same nature, leading to farmer strategies of excessive land claims to secure the necessary minimum. This problem was particularly acute in cases where villagers demarcated farmland under the CLM approach and documented that on village models and maps, yet were faced with the reversal or annulment of these classifications once the TG-HDP had closed down. These injustices call for a clear and transparent system of land demarcation and village boundary identification, so as to establish a mutual trust in a procedure that is accepted by all stakeholders, with generally applicable terms of reference. As population densities increase and new villages are established, such an approach will inevitable require giving up land, but it should occur within an approved framework.


In recognition of the stepwise process established by FAO (1993,11), a similar approach should be employed under the specific circumstances of the highlands, to be conducted by TAO members in cooperation with RFD, DLD, DOLA and DPW:

  1. Designation of district government officials as TAO members; previously none of the above agencies were TAO members, so it is important to secure their commitment to land use decisions. District officials would be members of all TAOs in their mandate, which in the case of Pang Ma Pha would be four Tambons. This is a solution for limited financial means, for it is unlikely that government staff can be hired additionally at Tambon level.
  2. Display of existing village land use models and maps; the available information and land classifications need to be assembled and assessed for possible omissions or mistakes (even lack of data for Pa Charoen village). This data will serve as a basis for aggregation at Tambon level, with uniformly identified land categories to avoid confusion over terms like protected and reserved forest.
  3. Problem analysis by all stakeholders; at this stage the problems and priorities by all stakeholders need to be formulated and explained, so that all members are aware of them from specific perspectives such as rice sufficiency or watershed protection.
  4. Identification of land use opportunities; this is a very difficult stage that inevitably leads to power conflicts over issues like forest mandates between RFD and village leaders as well as the location of permanent farming in relation to DLD classifications. Though this process is supported by the current debate on community forestry, this stage may the end of planning if the absence of a legal framework for highland development persists.
  5. Evaluation of land suitability; here there is a risk of reverting to the previous classifications based on physical properties only. Alternatives exist in principle (knie and möller 1999), but their applications have to be tested.
  6. Governance over land types; the mandate and responsibility over land types needs to be determined and accepted by all TAO members as well as government representatives, otherwise conflicts like centralised control and exploitation of a common ground for which no one is clearly responsible will continue as stumbling blocks to planning.
  7. Signing of land use agreements; it is very important to obtain written consent for land use agreements, backed up by maps models with demarcations understandable by all parties, as there needs to be a form of commitment to decisions. A written agreement may predate the long desire for land titles, and should include options for communal resource management in line with hill tribe perceptions.

The procurement of data and updates at village as well as Tambon level can of course not be carried out by government representatives at Tambon level for lack of technical and logistical infrastructure. Yet the membership of key agencies at this level could be a starting link with higher planning levels such as ICRAF or the GTZ assisted Sustainable Management of Resources in the Lower Mekong Basin Project (SMRP) in Chiang Mai (anonymous 1999), which have the means to generate land use maps and plans for the Royal Forest Department as their counterpart agency. That was part of the strategy of the Sam Muen Highland Development Project (limchoowong and oberhauser 1995,18), though after the project closure in 1994 all computer equipment and many staff were transferred to Bangkok. A more sustainable approach has been taken by the non-governmental organisation CARE with the long-term project in Mae Chaem district of Chiang Mai, which has worked in cooperation with ICRAF in this manner for digitised land use maps (anonymous 1997). CARE has even expanded this approach to other project areas recently (srimongkontip 2000), in combination with written land use agreements signed by all parties in the watershed committees. This is still of an informal nature and is the only known case in Thailand that has reached so far in the process, so it should serve as an encouragement that the above approach may not be completely unrealistic, even under current contradicting policies. This positive example may not be so easily replicable in other circumstances, for it is subject to favourable local conditions, but is a model to be followed.


One may extrapolate and imagine what Pang Ma Pha and Huai Poo Ling might look like in 20 years, with increasing population density, better infrastructure, tarmac roads, more tourism and sophisticated means to monitor opium production so as to make cultivation in the highlands nearly impossible. The first marked change is most likely going to be a drastic reduction of forest cover, replaced by permanent agriculture and more ethnic tourism attractions. As new villages continue to emerge and require land for agricultural production, forests will gradually disappear, as is already the case for most of Tambon Tham Lod. But is this not a realistic development when looking at the global state of forests? There remains of course a desire to maintain and protect remaining forests, not only for ethics, but also for the sheer necessity of forest areas and water supplies for survival. It is doubtful if the aim of forest protection should be pursued in areas of concentrations of people, or whether it would not be more important to define a number areas with little or no settlements for flora and fauna protection, without the disturbance of annual fires in the dry season and human interference in form of different types of tourism. If one aims to secure biodiversity, then the mere number of national parks is not significant, but their size and location including water availability, and areas free from major threats to wildlife like national highways and golf courses as found in the Khao Yai national park. The Royal Forest Department still stands for the guardian of the nation‘s forests, but in Mae Hong Son province it has lost a lot of credibility since the logging scandal of the Salween forest was exposed (kaopatumtip 1998), where forest officials benefited from logging.

If one pursues such thoughts further it begins to dawn that it is unrealistic to maintain the status of the Pai Wildlife Sanctuary for the villages of Luk Kao Lam and Bor Krai in Pang Ma Pha, as well as the Nam Tok Surin National Park in Huai Poo Ling, for it is only a matter of time for the road to become a tarmac road and more human interference. It may be more realistic to maintain communal woodlots in these areas, for they are not suited to maintain significant numbers of wildlife populations. The above considerations do not come light-heartedly in the face of serious environmental problems in Thailand, but are intended to illustrate that clinging on to restrictive forest mandates does not serve either purpose of forest protection, nor of a sustainable land use planning approach. Perhaps a communal approach may turn out much less threatening if highland development embraces a truly participatory planning process.

Photo 6-1: Which future for land use planning in the highlands?

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