The Prime Minister officially announced on 5 July 2010 the establishment of the National Reform Committee. The committee has five missions as follows: 1) to develop strategies, approaches, guidelines and working processes for national reform, 2) to propose means of implementing national reform of government and the public sector, 3) to coordinate a National Reform Assembly to gather information, feedback and suggestions concerning national reform, 4) to work closely with the National Reform Assembly to support and monitor the effectiveness of reform, 5) to set up a task force to take action on particular issues.
As a result, the National Reform Committee has formed a task force on the land title management system, and issues of environmental and natural resource management. The task force is to enquire into conflicts and concerns of injustice around the use of land, forest, mineral, freshwater and marine resources. WI has participated and presented the Ban Don Bay case study at the following meetings:
- On 25 November 2010, WI participated in the meeting on “Solutions for Social Environmental Health” at the Prince Palace Hotel, Surat Thani which was organized by the health assembly. At the meeting, solutions were recommended for problems concerning the management of marine and coastal resources in Surat Thani.
- On 3 December 2010, WI attended the national reform task force committee meeting on “The current situation of the land title management system, environmental and natural resource management” at Pisanulok Government House, Bangkok.
WI presented a case study on the Ban Don Bay coastal management conflict. Inshore encroachment for aquaculture farming has occurred due to the promotion of the seafood bank project under the previous government’s asset capitalisation policy (2004-2007). From the DOF database, in 2009, there were 80,139.91 rai of seashell cultivation in the districts of Donsak, Kanchanadit, Muang, Tha Chang and Chaiya districts. That area included 777 farms covering only 26,932.67 rai that had received official approval from DOF, and 1,083 illegal operations on 53,207 rai. Interestingly, just three of the illegal operations occupied 28,114.02 rai. Records do not indicate how many cases there were of big investors selling authorization to others, and how much area is actually controlled by local fisher folk.
During one of the BDCN meetings, information was presented on the significant impacts of cockle farms on local fishing communities. Farm owners have used bamboo stakes to demarcate cultivated areas where local fisher folk can not fish. Local fishermen have been threatened by farm owners, and the area that local people can fish has decreased. Subsequently, fishermen have gone further to fish, which has increased costs and risks during poor weather while traveling in small boats.
In addition, cockles are harvested from the sediment using a harrow, which spreads turbidity that negatively affects the marine eco-system. New mangrove planting in Ban Don Bay area have been affected, and the impacts of harrows on inshore natural resources are comparable to those of push nets. Attempts have been made to solve those problems, but have been unsuccessful because cockle investors have a lot of influence and have not been concerned about environmental impacts.
Recently, the national reform task force committee has selected Ban Don Bay to be one of four case studies on coastal resource management conflict. WI project staff have been appointed as members of a working group to gather information and make proposals to the national reform committee.