On May 29, 2019, three new acts were published in the Government Gazette to update existing laws and introduce new regulations relating to the protection and conservation of the environment. These laws will come into effect on November 25, 2019, and the implementation of all three will be overseen by special committees within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act B.E. 2562 (2019)
Replacing the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act B.E. 2535 (1992), this act lays out five categories of wildlife —preserved wildlife, protected wildlife, controlled wildlife, dangerous wildlife, and wildlife carcasses—and adds new species to the list of preserved wildlife for the first time (Bryde’s whales, Omura’s whales, leatherback turtles, and whale sharks).
Under the new act, the following violations are punishable by substantially increased prison terms, fines, or both:
- Import, export, or transfer of preserved wildlife, carcasses of preserved wildlife, or products made from preserved wildlife;
- Collection, endangerment, or keeping of preserved wildlife;
- Hunting preserved wildlife or protected wildlife;
- Keeping preserved wildlife that can be propagated (to be named by ministerial notification) without the proper certificate; and
- Trading preserved wildlife or preserved wildlife that can be propagated without the proper certificate.
National Park Act B.E. 2562 (2019)
This supersedes the National Park Act B.E. 2504 (1961) as amended, although provisions of the old act remain in force unless they conflict with the new act. The new act extends protection to forest parks, botanical gardens, and arboretums (also called “nature learning parks”), increases existing penalties, and introduces some new penalties and bounties for catching violators. The new act notably prohibits the following activities in these areas:
Holding, building on, clearing, burning, degrading, or changing land in a protected the area (punishable by imprisonment for 5 to 20 years, a fine of THB 400,000 to 2 million, or both);
Collecting, extracting, endangering, or causing deterioration to wood, soil, rock, gravel, sand, minerals, petroleum, or other natural resources, or taking any other action that affects the ecology, biodiversity, or natural resources and environment;
- Luring or taking wildlife out of the area, or causing any danger to wildlife;
- Changing, closing, or obstructing a waterway, or causing the water in a river, creek, swamp, marsh, or ocean to overflow, dry up, or become putrid or toxic;
- Entering into and carrying out any activity for the purpose of obtaining benefits;
- Bringing in weapons or gear for hunting or trapping animals;
- Shooting guns, causing explosions, or lighting fireworks;
- Disposing of fuel that may be flammable; and
- Moving, damaging, or destroying official boundary signs.
Community Forest Act B.E. 2562 (2019)
This act creates a separate level of protection for certain natural resources, and is intended to benefit communities who have been obstructed from using forest resources due to government reclamation or conservation efforts. Forests given this status are outside national park areas and must be conserved, restored, managed, and maintained by communities who benefit from the natural resources within the designated community forest. Only members of the designated community may collect or use resources from a designated community forest, and use is limited to residential or internal community purposes.
Communities of at least 50 people may apply for community forest status. In addition to empowering the Community Forest Committee in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the act also provides for provincial committees to be set up when needed.