What kind of environment? Reconciling Indigenous People's Rights and Environmental Conservation Policies - A case study from Thailand
Christian Erni and Prawit Nikornuaychai
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All over the world environmental conservation laws clash with the interests and rights of indigenous communities. In Asia, for example, millions of indigenous people are threatened with forced relocation due to the establishment of new or the strict enforcement of policies on existing protected areas.
The case study presented in this paper shows how an indigenous community in Thailand has successfully prevented relocation by developing resource management and conservation rules that have gained a certain recognition by the state.
After ten years, however, the communities realized that these conservation measures have undesired effects, that the kind of “environment” they have created is not the kind of environment they want, but the kind of environment that pleases the national park authorities and other outsiders.
This raises the fundamental questions: When we talk about indigenous peoples’ right to a decent environment – who actually defines how that environment should look like? And it leads us to the more general, practical question of how conflicts between indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental conservation policies can be reconciled.
The paper concludes with a brief analysis from an indigenous rights’ perspective of the potentials and limitations of the so-called collaborative approach in environmental conservation.