Forests cover approximately 32% of Thailand’s total land area [1], [2]. The country benefits from various forest habitat types [2], such as tropical evergreen forest, pine forest, deciduous forest, mangroves, and beach forest [1], [3]. These forests provide a wide array of goods and services. For instance, forest trees and shrubs play a vital role in the daily life of rural communities as a source of timber, wood for fuel, fodder, essential oils, and pharmaceuticals, and contribute to soil and water conservation. Additionally, forests are important for the Thai economy: the country’s forests have had substantial effects on the sustenance of agriculture, and they are home to some of the world’s best known tourist attractions. Collectively, forestry, agriculture, and tourism contribute about 20 to 30% of the country’s GDP (in 2020) [2].

Despite their importance, slash-and-burn farming, shifting cultivation, land resettlement, and dam and road construction have encroached on Thailand’s forest areas [3]. In 1973, total forest area covered approximately 43.21% of the country, declining to 31.58% by 2017 [4]. In particular, severe deforestation took place in Thailand during the 1970s and 1980s [3]. Additionally, over 53 years, mangrove area has decreased from 2,299,375 Rai in 1961 to 1,534,585 Rai in 2014 [4], [5] and most of Thailand’s beach forests have been destroyed to small patches [5].


Drivers of deforestation in Thailand include agricultural expansion, illegal logging, conversion of natural forest to plantations (including rubber and fruit orchards), forest fires, expansion of built-up areas, shrimp farming and seasonal flooding. Additionally, some key underlying factors contributing to the loss of forest areas in Thailand are rapid population growth, the high economic value of timber, land ownership and land rights, and uncertain agricultural policy [3].


Key policies and governance approach

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and the Royal Forest Department (RFD) are the two leading authorities for the forest sector in Thailand. The country has divided forest land into three different management classes: (i) Conservation Forests are managed by DNP and consist of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and other conserved forest classifications which historically were not subjected to active forest management practices; (ii) National Reserve Forests are managed by RFD and consist of forest lands which historically were subjected to active forest management activities. However, under current law, all forests in Thailand are excluded from timber harvest; and (iii) Mangrove forests, which are managed by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) [3].

Thailand has promulgated many forest laws which have been effective to control and define the processes for forest protection and sustainable forest resource management [6]. Key legal instruments include the Forest Act (1941), National Reserved Forest Act (1964), Wildlife Reservation and Protection Act (1992), Commercial Forest Plantation Act (1992), Chain Saws Act (2002), National Park Act (2019) and the Community Forest Act (2019) [1], [6]. The Community Forest Act provides a legal foundation to recognize local communities’ rights to manage their forests, including the creation of mechanisms for decision-making, representing an important milestone in the recognition of communities’ rights in Thailand. Through implementation of the Act, RFD aims to classify 1.6 million hectares of reserved forest as community forests by 2025, which will include 15,000 registered community forests [7].

Additionally, the country has developed several strategies and plans to protect its forests [6]. The National Forest Policy (2019) has been adopted to ensure sustainable management of forests in Thailand [8]. Thailand has also set up the commitment to increase forest cover to 55% of the country’s total area by 2037, under the 20-Year National Strategic Plan (2018-2037) [8], [9]. The 20-Year Strategic Plan for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (2017-2036) further elaborates in the first strategy that the goal is to protect and conserve forest areas for sustainable development of natural resources and biodiversity, including through monitoring and prevention of forest fires [1].

Successes and remaining challenges

The Government of Thailand has made great progress in the protection and sustainable management of its forests. For instance, Thailand has expanded its forest conservation areas from 66.06 million rai (105,696 square kilometres) in 2006 to 72.69 million rai (116,304 square kilometres) in 2020. This is equivalent to 23% of the total land area in 2020 and includes 22 national parks extending across 4.01 million rai (6,416 square kilometres). Additionally, total forest area increased slightly between 2017 and 2019, and mangrove area increased by 86.37% from 2014 to 2018 [10].

Further, the Government has also preserved and promoted a healthy forest ecosystem by establishing Forest Protecting Operation Centres. The centres provide an integrated platform and serve as the headquarters for anti-deforestation operations, the reclamation of forest areas from illegal ownership, the management of national parks in accordance with IUCN Green List Standards, and efforts to promote patrolling standards reform in reserved forest areas. The centres also collaborate with the private sector on the revival of forests in the reserved areas and mangroves, and on projects such as those preventing wildfire and forest management projects for a sustainable economy. Technology also plays an important role in forest management in Thailand. The Forest Monitoring System allows a near real time monitoring system in reserved areas all over the country. Furthermore, forest resource exploration database management systems are utilized to boost efforts, as well as forest resource measuring, following, and reporting systems [10].

Although the Thai Government has shown continuous commitment in developing forest-related laws and budgets, forest area has remained relatively stable in the country since 2004. As such, achieving the goal of 55% forest cover by 2037 remains a challenge for Thailand. Success will require awareness-raising, especially in promoting the community’s role in the conservation, recovery, and management of the country’s forests. This will include providing appropriate compensation for those affected by natural resource conservation and generating income from Thailand’s growing forests [10]. Strengthening institutional capacity is another important challenge to ensure there is efficient capacity to enforce and implement provisions of the existing forest laws and regulations in the country [9].

Initiatives and Development Plans

A range of projects and programs have been implemented in Thailand to address forest loss, including activities related to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing countries and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) [8].

Additionally, the private sector has been supporting the revival of Thailand’s forest areas to reduce the financial burden on the Government. The private sector has played a role in the management of natural resources alongside Government agencies as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Key examples include the following: (1) The “Giving with Our Hearts, Reforestation for the King” project has been implemented by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment over an area of 760 rai in the Mu Koh Chumphon National Park. (2) Similarly, the “CP-Meiji Forest and Water Conservation for the Country” project has been conducted by the CP-Meiji Co. Ltd. in over 50 rai of the Namtok Sam Lan National Park alongside the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation [10].

  • Raise awareness on sustainable forest management, especially by promoting the community’s role in the conservation, recovery, and management of natural resources. This includes providing appropriate compensation for those affected by natural resource conservation and generating income from the country’s growing forests [10].
  • Thailand needs technical and financial support and collaboration from international organizations and developed countries [9].
  • Economic incentives are needed to ensure sufficient revenue can be generated from forest resources. Potential financing mechanisms include payment for ecosystem services (PES), voluntary carbon offsets, ecotourism, conservation license plates, and biodiversity offsets [11].
  • Ecotourism activities could provide benefits to local communities including new employment opportunities as well as opportunities to sell local produce, which could serve as an incentive for these communities to protect forest resources [2].
  • Thailand must increase fund-raising in the private sector for activities regarding the conservation and promotion of biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems [10].
  • Joint efforts are needed by the state and the private sector to develop holistic and innovative governance approaches [9].
  • Expanding forest areas through the revival of degraded forest areas must pursue an integrated approach. This includes various forest revival measures, increasing the efficiency in the integrated management of forest areas, the management of natural resources in river basin areas, and research and development in order to increase the effectiveness of such measures [10].
  • Strengthen institutional capacity to enforce and implement provisions of the existing laws and regulations [9].
  • There are currently major gaps that prevent forest users from understanding how to establish and use a community forest. The government needs to develop specific regulations to implement the Community Forest Act and complete the legal framework. Several regulations should be enacted on different aspects of community forestry, such as types of products and services a community can use or provide. This will allow them to truly benefit from the community forest and take an interest in the sustainable management of the forest while increasing their livelihoods [7].

[1] Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, The Kingdom of Thailand (2022). Thailand’s Fourth Biennial Update Report.

[2] BIOFIN Thailand, UNDP (2020). The Biodiversity Finance Plan: The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) – Thailand.


[4] Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, The Kingdom of Thailand (2019). Thailand’s Sixth National Report on the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

[5] Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (2020). State of Marine and Coastal Resources and Coastal Erosion Thailand National Report 2020.

[6] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2020). Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 Report Thailand.

[7] RECOFTC. June 2021. Thailand’s Community Forest Act: Analysis of the legal framework and recommendations. Bangkok, RECOFTC.

[8] Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, The Kingdom of Thailand (2022). Thailand’s 2nd Updated Nationally Determined Contribution.

[9] Royal Forest Department (2019). Voluntary National Communications of Thailand to United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat.

[10] Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand (2021). Thailand’s Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 2021.

[11] BIOFIN Thailand, UNDP (2019). SYNTHESIS REPORT 2019.