Around 200 villagers from the Lahan tambon in Chaturat district gathered in a shrine next to the Bung Lahan swamp in protest at being barred from fishing and harvesting produce there after it was declared a game reserve by the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department in 2009.
The rally was led by Tambon Lahan municipality’s mayor, Banyen Prompakdi, and Thanet Sumontha, tambon Lahan’s kamnan, and other local leaders. In tambon Lahan, Bung Lahan is a natural swamp of about 20,000 rais about 190 meters above sea level. The demonstrators said their way of life had changed since, being designated a game reserve in 2009.
Its declaration as a game reserve was based on a 2001 study that found it to be a natural habitat of 53 bird species, 52 of which are classified as endangered. Many of those birds have been migratory. Local people have been forbidden from using natural resources and fishing in the swamp since 2009, which is home to a variety of fish, because the birds may be frightened away.
The villagers said Bung Lahan was a lifeline of local people, who had been fishing there for over 100 years for their living. Then, anybody caught fishing was captured in the forest, and their gear was confiscated. The ban on fishing had made life difficult for more than 1,000 families, they said. They were even prohibited from entering by boat into the swamp to gather wild vegetables.
The villagers stated that their representatives would be traveling to Bangkok to send a letter to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Director-General and their MPs in the House of Representatives calling for Bung Lahan’s “game reserve” status to be removed, so that it could once again be a source of their food and restore a normal lifestyle.