Timber | Thailand

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Salient Themes

Areas of Most Severe Impacts

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Early Warning

Signs of Increasing Risk

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Under DevelopmentPrograms to address adverse impacts

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Potential and actual adverse impacts have been reported regarding:
– Decent Work
– Occupational Safety and Health
– Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining

Reports indicate that:
In the category occupational safety and health, the seven risks identified are high levels of dust (insufficient inspections by government agency), exposure of workers to hazardous substances and chemicals (e.g. glue), fatal and non-fatal accidents of workers, unsafe construction of the building of sawmills (fragile roof, holes in walls, old power cables – instead, investment goes to machinery), partial use of PPEs (related to tropical conditions and associated risks of accidents due to heavy transpiration), hearing damage and lack of fire safety (worker behaviour, poorly maintained power cable). It was added by an source, that poor governance is often an underlying factor for the risks in timber production.

Unregulated (illegal) alien workers has been widely reported (particularly from Myanmar). Small-scale operators seek to contract (and arrange for) the short-term employment of migrant workers and this has been encountered frequently in the timber sector. Of the 3 million migrant workers, reports indicate that up to 50% may be illegal and unregulated or inaccurately reported. Problems are significant, particularly in those provinces that share a common border with Myanmar.

Membership of Unions is actively or effectively discouraged within large commercial companies and the capacity of workers to raise complaints, bargain collectively and negotiate effectively with employers is limited. Union membership is stated but frequently confused with the membership of a company run scheme.

Thailand has ratified 17 ILO Conventions, including 5 out of 8 fundamental conventions (a 6th one, C111, will be in force in 2018).
What is of significance from the point of view of workers is that despite Thai trade Unions long-standing demand and public commitments of the Government, the ratification of C 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention) and C 98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention) is yet to happen.

There are national and international sources that state that social rights are not covered by the relevant legislation.

Environment & Public Health

Potential and actual adverse impacts on the Environment & Public Health have been reported regarding:
– Health
– Healthy Environment
– Community Safety
– Biodiversity
– Climate Change

Reports indicate that:
Three environmental risks were identified during the interview: GHG emissions, safety of factory surroundings (dust, air and noise pollution) and discharge of hazardous substances into the environment (e.g. spillage motor oil). There have been complaints from neighbours of a plywood mill about dust.

Due to chemical impregnating of wood (chrome, copper), there is a risk these substances end up in the environment (for example through leaching during usage, storage and waste phases) and harm plants, animals and humans.


Potential and actual adverse impacts on Land have been reported regarding:
– Land and Natural Resources
– Livelihoods

Reports indicate that:
There are risks related to legality of land ownership and tenure. Where documentary evidence exists and is available to interrogation by the general public (and this is much more difficult), documentary evidence is frequently insufficient to demonstrate legality of ownership with consistent reliability. The issue is one that occurs at a national level and the risk can be considered homogenous. There is no clear data to demonstrate that there are differences in risk that are attributable to specific regions or provinces. The current system assumes that the products from the land are de facto the property of the owner or leaseholder of that land. But this may not be the case and the presentation of documents of land tenure may not ensure the legality of any product – especially the trees,timber or products derived from the trees, such as oils, gums, resin or fuelwood/chips/pellets. The legality of the ownership – and the legality of the products derived from that land – may be very difficult to prove once the land starts to be harvested or generates products that require proof of ownership, title or legality.

The risks relates to the provision of goods and services which provide significant social benefits (ownership and/or use of land for productive purposes) and have significant value. Officials charged with providing this service may seek to take advantage of this situation in order to benefit themselves. This is a common risk which occurs when the value of the benefit or service is significantly greater than the work required by the officials responsible for issuing the service or their personal remuneration, and there is weak oversight and controls. In this case the principal risk is that the document or service provided does not provide the legal assurance, but this assurance is subsequently relied upon by other officials or the general public. The illegal nature of the process (of issuing the document or providing the service) invalidates its legality.There is a considerable disconnect between official policies and local land use realities, and risks may be related to unclear tenure rights. Many areas declared as legal forest land are not actually populated with trees, but rather consist of smallholder agricultural plots.

Thailand has a high perception of corruption according to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International. Scoring 36 our of a 100 and ranking 101st of the 198 countries. In this score the lower score and rank the more corruption is in place.

Culture & Indigenous Peoples

Potential and actual adverse impacts on Culture & Indigenous Peoples have been reported regarding:
– Indigenous Peoples Lands, Territories, Resources and FPIC

Reports indicate that:
Indigenous and Traditional Peoples are not recognized in Thailand, nor are there any laws or regulations dealing with IP. Although the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was signed the implementation is far from finished. The rights of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples are therefore not upheld. Because the Thai government does not recognise customary rights in relation to forestry activities, there continues to be a risk in terms of community dissatisfaction and refusal to respect the relevant laws or decisions based on them.The absence of a clear consensus on customary law and values and how these are, or can be, incorporated into formal laws represents a significant and continuing problem that Thai’s existing legislation in relation to occupation and use of forest areas will not be respected. This represents an on-going problem at a National level.

There have been cases of arrests, incarceration, forced eviction and other violations by forestry and national park officials. The National Park Act does not allow occupancy within parks, despite of the existence of evidence that an indigenous peoples’ settlement has existed long before the demarcation of the protected area.

The Government’s refusal to acknowledge Indigenous People’s Rights with respect to forest resources continues to pose risks in terms of community dissatisfaction and refusal to respect the relevant laws or decisions based on them. A clear example is evident in the recent Reuters press report of 17 May
2018 where communities perceive the government’s rules related to land use are unacceptable and do not respect traditional Thai values.The absence of a clear consensus on Indigenous People’s Rights and how these are, or can be, incorporated into formal laws represents a significant and continuing problem that Thai’s existing legislation in relation to occupation and use of forest areas will not be respected. This represents an on-going problem at a National level.

In Thailand, there is no special law covering “free prior and informed consent”. It is not possible to establish with any accuracy at what level laws, and their application in practice, are applied through a process requiring free and informed consent of individuals or the community. The situation has been complicated by the promulgation of new laws and regulations by the military government which are superseding or amending the previous legislation but with even more limited opportunities for discussion and debate by Thai society.


IRBC agreement ‘Promotion of sustainable Forestry’ (2020). International responsible business conduct in tropical timber value chains.

The research covers primarily processing at sawmills (from log to sawn timber) and plywood production in Thailand. Facilities visited included FSC certified and non-certified (but interested) facilities.

FSC (2019). Centralized National Risk Assessment for Thailand.

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