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Green Isan & Khor Jor Kor projects (and other state plantations), Thailand


In Thailand, resistance to eucalypt plantations peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The "Isan Khiau" or "Green Isan" - Green the Northeast (1987-1992) and the "Khor Jor Kor" (1990-1992) projects launched by an alliance of the pulp and paper industry, the Royal Forestry Department and the army aimed at "regreening" North-eastern Thailand by planting eucalypts. The second project was even more brutal than the first one: its plan included the eviction of five million residents as part of an effort to plant around 1.4 million hectares of eucalypts. Pye (2005: 109) notes that “the Khor Jor Kor Project represented a pinnacle of state-directed authoritarian forestry”. The former monk Phra Prachak Kuttjitto led villagers in the Buriram province in opposing eucalypt plantations. Among the tactics used was that of “ordaining” trees to prevent them from being cut down by wrapping tree trunks with strips of saffron of the golden color of a monk's robes. The region was a special target of repression under the Khor Jor Kor campaign. Villages were surrounded by troops, houses dismantled, leaders detained, and Phra Prachak Kuttjitto arrested. The project resulted in a broad-based rural protest movement that culminated in the biggest demonstration in Thai history, targeted at the military junta. After having ordered troops to fire into the crowds, the junta was finally forced to back down in 1992. In the following months, thousands of villagers continued to protest against the plantation project, blocking a major highway. As a result, the government scrapped the military’s eviction programme, suspended “reforestation” with eucalypts, and imposed a ceiling of 8 ha on any type of commercial tree plantation. In 1994, local opposition to a eucalypt-planting Royal Forest Department (RFD) development programme in Roi Et become so strong that district officials had no choice but to express support for villagers who chopped down over 300 ha of eucalypts in order to replace them with community-conserved forests of native species. By 1995, village networks in the province were attempting to eliminate eucalypts from their areas altogether, forcing the RFD to suspend its eucalypt operations over a wide area. Responsibility for existing plantations, meanwhile, was passed to other authorities, whom villagers have pressured through a variety of channels to cut the eucalypts and distribute the profits locally. Throughout their campaigns, north-eastern villagers and their NGO allies have: researched and publicized multi-purpose native alternatives to eucalypts which are responsive to the diversity of food, construction, medicinal and ecological needs of different localities; launched supplementary plantings of native trees on degraded sites; and posted new areas as community forest.

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Green Isan & Khor Jor Kor projects (and other state plantations), Thailand
State or province:Roi Et province (especially)
Location of conflict:North-east (especially)
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Eucalyptus
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Project area:1,400,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1975
End of the conflict:2000
Relevant government actors:Royal Forest Department
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Several local and national EJOs, most notably the The national farmers organisation Samacha Khon Jon („Forum of the Poor").
A North-eastern wide network of „47 forest committees"
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
- Ordaining of trees to prevent them from being cut down.
- Chopping down of eucalyptus in order to replace them with useful native species.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
New legislation
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
The former monk Phra Prachak Kuttjitto was arrested on 7 charges
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The "Green Isan" (1987-1990) and the "Khor Jor Kor" (1990-1992) projects generated the biggest social movement yet against tree plantations. Authorities had no other choice but withdraw their projects and powerful companies had to stop their operations and pay damages to local villagers.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

1960 Forest Act

Community Forest Bill

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Carrere, R., and L. Lohmann, 1996. Pulping the South: industrial tree plantations and the global paper economy. London: Zed Books.

Lang, C., 2002. The pulp invasion: the international pulp and paper industry in the Mekong region. Montevideo: World Rainforest Movement.

Lang, C., 2008. Plantations, poverty and power: Europe’s role in the expansion of the pulp industry in the South. Montevideo: World Rainforest Movement.

Lohmann, L., 1991. Peasants, plantations and pulp: the politics of eucalyptus in Thailand. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 23 (4): 3-17.

Lohmann, L., 1995. Land, power and forest colonization in Thailand. In: The struggle for land and the fate of the forest, eds. M. Colchester and L. Lohmann, pp. 198-227. Montevideo: World Rainforest Movement.

Pye, O., 2005. Khor Jor Kor forest politics in Thailand. Bangkok: White Lotus Press.

Taylor, J., 1993. Social activism and resistance at the Thai frontier: the case of Phra Prajak Khuttajitto. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 25 (2): 3-16.

Meta information
Contributor:J.-F. Gerber
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1215
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