|Agricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics (UNU, 1988, 305 pages)|
|4. The forest colonization process: case studies of two communities in north-east and south-east Thailand|
|Case study 2: history of settlement|
The study area is located in King Amphoe Bo Thong, which is about 60 km east of the district centre. The first record of forest exploitation is from as early as the 1930s, when natives sought jungle products, especially yang oil (black lacquer), which later became commercialized by a Chinese trader living in Phanat Nikhom. At that time sugarcane was already being grown in the area surrounding Phanat Nikhom, supplying brownsugar mills operated by the Chinese. The area under cane did not expand into Bo Thong until the 1960s because lumbering was still very active. Sawmillers extracted timber from the forests of Bo Thong even before the 1940s. Extensive extraction of timber occurred in the 1950s, during which three more sawmills were established in the adjacent amphoe (district). In addition, two timber concessions were granted, covering an area of about 850 km2 encompassing parts of Ban Bung and Bo Thong. The first course of deforestation through timber felling lasted almost 40 years, of which the last concession ended in 1970.
Sugar-cane farmers (brown-sugar processors) started to penetrate the area in the 1960s by claiming old felling locations along logging routes. These people were the first to put this frontier land to cultivation. The tract of land claimed was not less than 500 rai (80 ha). It was also this group of brown-sugar processors who began the luk rai system.
When the area proved to be suitable for sugar-cane, upon the exhaustion of commercial timber supplies, the lumber-mill owners used the land for speculative purposes. As they were not farmers, these "land controllers" introduced the pa boei system, by which small or landless farmers are granted permission to work on a piece of claimed land over a certain period of time, generally three to five years (contract farmers). They are allowed to clear and till the land to grow any crops and to reap the harvests without any interference from the land controllers until the due time, as previously agreed. After this the process is repeated on other plots of land. This system was a contributing factor to the clearing of forests in the hinterland and, at the same time, encouraging the in-migration of small or landless farmers. The land controllers are not only lumber owners but rich merchants and businessmen who have claimed and control large areas of land but are not their legal owners. Their control can be exercised only if government agencies collaborate or ignore their illegal activities; that is, control depends on wealth and political influence and on the tolerance of their activities by the Government.
The development of road networks and the introduction of a new variety of cane led to the development of processing techniques and equipment required for the establishment of white-sugar mills. The rate of deforestation increased rapidly as more settlers moved in. Local records revealed that from 1973 to 1978 the population doubled from about 11,000 to 22,000.
As Bo Thong began to attract wage labourers when white-sugar mills were developed, the mills started buying fresh cane directly from plantation owners through a quota system.