The Political Ecology of Deforestation in Thailand
Claudio O. Delang
This article looks at the history of the relationship between development policies and deforestation in Thailand from the beginning of the nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century. It first considers the lowland processes of horizontal expansion that carried on until the end of the Second World War, at which point the lowlands had become almost completely deforested. The article then turns to the highland forests, and discusses the development policies pursued there by the Thai government until the 1980s, when the government outlawed logging and declared a closure of the frontier. Drawing on political ecology, the paper argues that forest policies of the Thai government have changed owing to shifts in the relative influence of different groups – the landed nobility, the industrialists, the military, and the environmentalists – in the national political arena. The group with the least political power, the ethnic minorities living in the highlands, is eventually blamed for the deforestation, in spite of the fact that it is the one that least contributed to it.
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Date: Autumn 2005