On November 21st the Thai National Legislative Assembly passed a community forestry bill that grants legal rights to forest communities to preserve and manage forest lands surrounding their communities. The bill passed by a 57-2 vote following seven hours of debate, but activists and officials alike expressed concerns and complaints over the bill.
Activists feel that the bill does not do enough to protect forest communities, stating that some elements of the bill violate the Thai constitution, and that some 20,000 communities will be denied the rights set forth in the bill because of strict stipulations. For example, the bill only grants rights to original forest dwellers, or communities that have lived in an area for over 10 years.
While officials believe the new law will transfer natural resource management too quickly to forest communities, Thai-based RRI Partner RECOFTC recognizes the bill as an important step forward in Thailand. The bill was passed in in the House in 2001, but met opposition in the Senate, and only now was reintroduced and passed. The debate will clearly continue as activists push for more rights for all forest communities.