Satellite image showing deforestated areas in Thailand

On November 30, 2001, MODIS captured this image of southeastern Asia. The image focuses on the countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, left to right respectively. In eastern Thailand, the brown coloring that dominates the center of the image and mimics the country's border with Laos and Cambodia, speaks of the massive deforestation that occurs in this region. One of southeastern Asia's prominent environmental concerns, deforestation has played a major role in flooding in the region. There have also been incidents where portions of Thailand's traditional waterway transport system have been clogged by siltation as a result of deforestation.


Causes of Deforestation in Thailand

Population Growth
This is most evident in the Northeast region of Thailand. The region is the most densely populated in the nation and has some of the least productive soils for agriculture. As populations increased, the need for food increased, and much forest land had to be cleared to increase food production capacity to meet demand.

Agricultural Policy
The Thai government put controls on the price of rice, which encouraged farmers to explore alternative crops. However, the largest impact agricultural policy had on deforestation was the construction of roads following World War 2. These roads were built to help farmers bring food products from rural areas into the more densely populated urban centers. This encouraged farmers to move away from subsistence farming and begin to farm on a larger scale.

Land Ownership Policy
Property rights in Thailand are extremely ambiguous and are often interpreted differently by the various branches of the Thai government. The inability of many Thai citizens to secure property has resulted in them going out into the forests to find space to farm.
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