• Thailand

Legal framework for forest management and timber trade of Thailand

Forest governance

The Royal Forest Department (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment) is the main authority responsible for compliance in the timber industry. Provincial offices of the Ministry, as well as its district offices and provincial halls (under the Ministry of the Interior) are responsible for granting permission outside Bangkok.

The Forest Act B.E. 2484 (1941) outlines procedures related to harvesting permission on public land, private land, and plantations that are not registered under The Forest Plantation Acts B.E. 2535 (1992) and the Forest Plantation Act (No. 2) B.E. 2558 (2015). The latter two Acts outline procedures related to harvesting permission on registered plantations. The Electric Chainsaw Act B.E. 2545 (2002) regulates the ownership, possession, sale, import and use of chainsaws.

According to the Forest Act B.E. 2484 (1951), a harvesting permit is required for, and a royalty applied to timber generated from:

  • National Forest Reserves (NFRs): all species
  • Public land (excluding NFRs and Protected Areas): restricted species
  • Private land: teak (Tectona grandis), yang (Dipterocarpus alatus), and rosewood (Dalbergia spp.)

Legal rights to harvest

In Thailand, land is classified into private land and public or government land. The Land Code B.E. 2497 (1954) defines different types of documents depending on whether the owner can claim occupancy, utilization, or legal possession of the land. Ownership can be separated from use rights. Usufruct certificates have been given to households that were living and continue to live in National Forest Reserves before those reserves were demarcated. The Forest Act defines “restricted species” in section 6, 7 and 8. These sections prescribe that harvesting restricted timber species in a forest requires permission. The restricted species are declared in The Royal Decree on Restricted Timber Species B.E. 2530 (1987) and the Royal Decree on Restricted Forest Products B.E. 2530 (1987). In National Forest Reserves (NFRs), harvesting all species requires permission. Felling of trees in protected areas is prohibited.

Taxes and fees

Fees are based on classification of quantities, qualities and species. The tax tariffs are as follows:

  • 40% for exported log and lumber
  • 10% for unsuitable wood for wood production
  • 20% for the imported wood products which can be locally produced
  • 10% for imported wood products which cannot be locally produced

Incorrect classification of forest products is a well-known issue often combined with bribery of officials in charge of controlling the classification.

Timber harvesting activities

Legal requirements to obtain a harvesting permit depend on the species involved and the area where the trees are grown. As there has been no legal timber harvests in natural forests since 1989, the focus of legal domestic timber harvesting has shifted entirely to planted forests and trees. A royalty is applied to all timber cut from public lands, with exceptions made for 14 non-restricted species grown on public lands outside of National Forest Reserves and - all timber generated from plantations registered under the Commercial Forest Plantations Act. The 14 non-restricted species are:

  1. Hevea brasiliensis (Rubber)
  2. Eucalyptus sp. (Eucalypt species)
  3. Azadirachta excelsa
  4. Casuarina equisetifolia (Sea Oak)
  5. Casuarina junghuniana (Horsetail tree)
  6. Acacia auriculaeformis (Wattle)
  7. Acacia mangium
  8. Leucaena leucocephala (Lead tree)
  9. Cocos nucifera (Coconut)
  10. Tamarindus indica (Indian date, Tamarind)
  11. Baccaurea ramiflora
  12. Bouea macrophylla (Marain Plum)
  13. Albizia saman (East Indian Walnut)
  14. Borassus flabellifer

There are 58 tree species explicitly eligible for registration under the Commercial Forest Plantations Act.

On privately owned lands, no harvesting permits are required.  According to conditions stipulated in the Commercial Forest Plantation Act, those wishing to harvest timber from plantations in public or private lands registered under the Act (holders of Plantation Certificates) submit a Notification of Harvest to provincial authorities, which is then acknowledged by the Registrar of Plantations, who issues a Certificate of Cutting/Felling Notification (Sor Por 13). The operator wishing to harvest, must also register their private seal (for marking harvested timber) with the authorities, obtaining a Seal Registration and a Seal Certificate. At the time of harvest, the operator must also prepare an acknowledged letter of timber account named Plantation Timber Packing List (Sor Por 15).

Third parties’ rights

Thailand is undergoing an important development in its forestry laws. When the Community Forest Act B.E. 2562 was passed in 2019, Thailand had for the first time an official umbrella law to recognize community forestry. Subordinate laws still need to be developed to further clarify the Act for its implementation.

Trade and transport

Timber requires an export license in accordance with the Export And Import Of Goods Act, BE 2522 (1979). In 2020, the Royal Forest Department (RFD) launched the Regulation for issuing the letter of Certification for trade and Export of Timber, Wood Products and Charcoal (Ror Mor 8 Form). Exporters of logs, sawn wood, or charcoal derived from any species of wood must obtain an Export Permit (Or. 2) from the Department of Foreign Trade. To obtain such Export Permit (Or. 2), exporters must submit proof of legality to the Department of Foreign Trade, under the Ministry of Commerce. Legality documents may include RFD-issued certificates (Ror mor 8) for charcoal, logs or sawn wood, issued for each consignment, as well as a Removal Pass (Transportation Certificate).

For charcoal, RFD will also issue, upon request, a Certificate of Charcoal from Private Lands (if sourced from private lands). A Certificate of Restricted Wood Product is issued for furniture and wood products made from restricted species. If a Certificate of Origin is required, exporters can apply for such from the Department of Foreign Trade.

For export of products of CITES-listed species, a Conservation Species Export Permit is issued, as appropriate, by the Department of Agriculture. Teak logs and teak sawn wood, only harvested from plantations, can be legally exported only by the Forest Industry Organization (FIO), based on Ministry of Commerce Regulation of Log and Timber Exporting B.E.2549 (2006). In addition, Phytosanitary Certificates are issued by the Department of Agriculture.

These documents, as relevant, need to be submitted together with standard export documents, including Export Declaration (Customs Form 101 or 101/1), invoice, bill of lading, insurance, packing list, and a Foreign Transaction Form (if the export value exceeds Baht 500,000 or approximately US$16,000) to the Customs Department.