‘You don’t kill people to protect forests’: New Thai parks chief raises alarm

The controversial whistleblower who helped expose corruption in Thailand’s parks department has gained a major promotion — and increased scrutiny of his own checkered history, which includes two murder charges, a corruption investigation, and multiple allegations of human rights abuses.

Senior forest officer Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn arrived with the bait money for a December 2022 sting operation that led to the arrest and dismissal of Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya, director-general of Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP). And while Rutchada faces prison, and perhaps even the death penalty, for bribery charges, Chaiwat has received a major career boost, having been appointed director of the DNP’s Office of National Parks, a position he’s expected to take up officially on March 1.

The job will see Chaiwat overseeing 155 national parks and 91 reserved forests, covering 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles), accounting for 14% of the country’s total land area.

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Kannikar Petchkaew