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Tourism in Thailand's National Parks: The Problems It Brings

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Tourism in Thailand's National Parks: The Problems it Brings

"Rainforests are currently being destroyed at a rate of over 200,000 square kilometers a year according to the US National Academy of Sciences" (Wheeler). Some of these rainforests are located in Thailand's national parks. In Thailand, there are 15 national parks set aside for conservation, though only 80% of these parks remain intact today. These Parks represent approximately 13% of Thailand's land. The purpose of these parks is for the conservation of the forests and wildlife, educational tours and research studies, as well as recreational adventure (Wheeler). In 1961, The Royal Forest Department (RFD) of Thailand passed the National Park Act. This act stated that activities which endanger any resource within the park boundaries are strictly prohibited. These activities include settlement, land ownership, grazing, the manipulation of waterways, geological deterioration, logging, hunting, and colleting of forest products. These provisions obviously do not apply to park officials who protect and maintain the park for education, technical research, and facilitate recreational activities" (Pipithvanichtham). One of the main reasons for the Thai government's plan to expand tourism facilities in the national parks is to bring in foreign money into the economy through tourism to these areas. However, there are concerns that the effects of increasing tourism in these areas will lead to mismanagement, corruption, and environmental destruction. Therefore, the Thai government should not be promoting tourism in Thailand's national parks.

The government claims that problems associated with tourism in national parks can be dealt with by careful planning and with the participation of government agencies. For example, the RFD is making an effort to protect the National Parks. The RFD plans to update their existing park laws and regulations to make them more suitable for the modern times. The RFD and the Kasetsart University conducted a training session for all national park chiefs to provide them a chance to learn about park management policies. The RFD hopes to develop some means of cooperation with other countries, particularly in the fields of expertise which it lacks" (Pipithvanichtham).

While the RFD has a plan, it will require money to enact it. Currently, there is not enough money to fund this plan coupled with governmental mismanagement. The parks are not funded well enough, which has caused the amount of upkeep in the parks to decrease. The cost of managing Thailand's national parks is met using the government's central budget and park entrance fees. Neither provides enough money to fund all the expenses necessary. The amount of money the government provides is so low because the National Parks compete with other funding activities and are not considered a high priority. Therefore, not much money is spent on the Parks, yet the government expects the tourists to pay high amounts of money to visit run down and urbanized Parks. Another reason why there are limited funds for the Parks is because typically the entrance fee is only 5 baht per person, while others charge nothing at all (Wheeler).

The government claims that if the Parks remain open to tourism and if the entrance fees are raised, then the money brought in will help the economy and the locals around the parks. "Entrance fees could be adjusted to reflect the value of recreational services. This will help raise revenue for management and the improvement of facilities," says Dr. Israngkura, an economist at the National Institute of Development Administration. "Revenue generated this way can be used to improve services and facilities. Most importantly, it will help ensure that recreational services provided by National Parks will be sustained for future generations." (Wheeler) Once there is more money coming into the national economy, that money can then be used for restoration projects to help protect these national parks.

While raising the entrance fees for the National Parks could potentially help the condition of these parks, it is a sad reality that much of the money never makes it way back to these reserves. The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation department together make huge amounts of money from gate receipts, from renting lodging and hotels and from the sale of local goods to visiting people to the area. At present, none of this



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