Political ecology, privation and sustainable livelihoods in northern Thailand's national parks

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University of Arizona
National parks provide a wide range of ecological, social and economic benefits. However, in some cases the establishment of national parks has also led to the displacement of Indigenous people, the disruption of their livelihoods, and ongoing social conflict. Northern Thailand's national parks are home to approximately one million Indigenous people. Balancing the interests and needs of national park authorities with those of Indigenous communities within and adjacent to these parks poses significant challenges. This article employs qualitative research methods to assess the livelihood strategies of six Indigenous hill tribe communities residing within three national parks in Northern Thailand. Due to the criminalization of the traditional farming systems and restrictions imposed on land use, these communities have had to adapt their livelihood practices to survive. Our findings suggest that communities remain in a state of flux and are continually adapting to changing circumstances. It is argued that greater community empowerment and participation in collaborative decision making is crucial to strengthen both sustainable livelihoods and environmental conservation efforts within Northern Thailand's national parks.
Sustainable livelihoods; co-management; Northern Thailand; national parks; social justice
Journal of Political Ecology : Case Studies in History and Society, 2020, 27 (1), pp. 360 - 377