|Agricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics (UNU, 1988, 305 pages)|
|3. Types of spontaneous pioneer settlement in Thailand|
Pioneer settlement in Thailand is closely connected with fundamental structural changes in Thai agriculture. Not only has the agricultural production of the country increased absolutely during the last three decades but it has even grown relatively, that is, per capita of the population, in spite of a considerable population growth (FAO 1984).
Unlike the experience of many other Asian countries, this production increase was reached less by means of intensification in existing farming areas than by clearing new areas for farming on previously untouched land (Fuhs and Vingerhoets 1972). Thus the increase in production, welcome in itself, had to be bought with the destruction of a large part of Thailand's forest reserves. The Thai development plan for 1977-1981 hints at the extent to which this happened. It states that in 1961 53 per cent of the total area of Thailand was still covered in forest. By 1974, however, this had been reduced to 38 per cent, and it is now down to less than 30 per cent.
Parallel to the drastic reduction in forest area during the last 30 years agricultural area has more than tripled in size. What is remarkable about this considerable expansion is the important role of a few upland crops, particularly maize, cassava, sugar-cane, and kenaf, all almost exclusively cultivated for sale and not for consumption by the farmer.
Besides upland crops the areas under wet-rice cultivation in Thailand have also been expanded considerably in the last 30 years, although this tendency has gradually been decreasing during recent years (National Statistical Office of Thailand 1984).
As regards organization, the process of land settlement is carried out nowadays in Thailand, as in other South-East Asian countries, in two ways (Uhlig 1984): (a) by planned resettlement schemes, organized and set up by the state and partly financed with foreign aid, of which there are now a number in Thailand, and (b) by spontaneous land colonization. The uncontrolled settlement considerably exceeds state-directed colonization in area. Thus between 1945 and 1975, only 0.5 million ha of land were cleared in Thailand for government settlement projects, whilst between 1960 and 1975 alone the agricultural area increased by almost 10 million ha-from 7.8 million to 17.4 million ha-and by today it has reached about 23.5 million ha. These figures illustrate the importance of spontaneous pioneer settlement for Thailand's regional development. It is all the more strange, therefore, that almost no empirical findings from investigation into this problem have so far been made available, whereas, on the other hand, the development of the state-directed resettlement projects of Thailand is quite well documented (Klempin 1978).
Certain structural conditions peculiar to Thailand may well have been decisive for the rapid expansion of farm land in connection with spontaneous pioneer settlement. Among these are the following:
1. Until recently there existed abundant land reserves. With 44 inhabitants per square kilometre in 1955 and 95 in 1982, Thailand was and still is not overpopulated by Asian standards (Uhlig, in 1972, even spoke of a "demographic low-pressure chamber" between the over-populated neighbours China and India). Between the relatively densely populated alluvial plains of the big rivers and the surrounding mountain ridges there are vast areas of a highlandlowland transition zone which so far have been used very extensively only as timber reserve or as forest pasture. Although these areas often have quite poor soil (especially in north-eastern Thailand), it is possible to use certain not-so-sensitive cropping systems on them.
2. Thailand has a relatively well developed system of infrastructure, in particular a road network that has been greatly improved during the past 30 years and has opened up even thinly populated regions.
3. Thai forestry policy, since around 1900, has resulted in the passage of about 30 laws to protect the forest. However, the government has never been able to put them to use consistently for many reasons (Khambanonda 1972).
4. The very favourable price development for a variety of crops such as maize, cassava, and sugar-cane on the world market induced many Thai farmers, who up until then had produced almost exclusively wet rice, to extend their activities to the unused uplands.
Certain characteristics of Thai farmers undoubtedly supported the process of spontaneous settlement, as, for example, their well-known weak ties to the soil, the looseness of their social duties outside the nuclear family, and their high degree of mobility and innovativeness (Piamphongsant 1971).
The spatial distribution of spontaneous pioneer settlement has not yet been recorded for all parts of the country. The best-surveyed area is probably south-east Thailand. A comparison of the present forest area (Klankamsorn 1978) with older aerial photographs and topographic maps gives impressive documentation of the extent of forest destruction in this region and the rapid invasion of pioneer settlers since the beginning of the 1950s (see fig. 1, p. 10). Without a doubt this process has been exceptionally rapid in this region (Uhlig 1984)-the main reasons certainly being the area's favourable location near Bangkok and its good accessibility, providing excellent conditions for marketing agricultural products. We have therefore concentrated our investigations on south-east Thailand. The sample areas are shown in figure 1, chapter 2.
Our findings showed a clear differentiation within the process of pioneer settlement, which can be classified into the following three types: (1) the expansion of farm land by local peasants within their village territory, (2) pioneer settlement by peasants outside their village territory, and (3) colonization by medium- and largescale farmers. (Uhlig  uses a similar classification. However, he distinguishes four types, dividing pioneer settlement by peasants outside their village territory into two types: that in which the settlers use their new habitat as a home only temporarily, alternating with their old home, and that in which the settlers give up their old home completely.)