Thailand’s Environment Minister Strengthens Ties with U.S. Counterparts
On 26 – 27 April 2016, General Surasak Karnjanarat, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand, visited Washington, D.C. to discuss with his U.S. counterparts about cooperation on marine conservation, national parks management and anti-wildlife trafficking. The visit is part of his official mission to the U.S. to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on behalf of the Royal Thai Government. The Minister was also joined by General Attanop Sirisak, Secretary to the Minister, Mr. Thanya Netithammakun, Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and relevant officials.
In his meeting with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Co-Chair of the Senate International Conservation and Oceans Caucuses, Minister Surasak updated the Senator on recent efforts in Thailand relating to national parks, forests and wildlife conservation. These include, for example, development of the twenty – year national policy on elephant conservation, setting a goal to increase the total forest cover in the country from 32 per cent to 40 per cent in the next 20 years, implementation of the Elephant Ivory Act, and measures to work in partnership with local community on environmental conservation.
Senator Whitehouse expressed his support for Thailand on these important issues of mutual interests. He recalled his fond memories when his father, Mr. Charles S. Whitehouse, was the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand from 1975 – 1978. The Senator invited Minister Surasak to visit marine science institutes in Rhode Island.
Minister Surasak also raised these positive developments when he met Senator Richard Burr, Co-Chair of the Senate International Conservation Caucus. The two sides discussed cooperation on national parks management under a Sister Parks Agreement between Khao Yai National Park in Thailand and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, where the Minister and his delegation had a pleasure to visit before coming to Washington, D.C. Mr. John Gantt, President of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), an organization working to advance conservation governance and an important interlocutor between Thai and U.S. conservation leaders, also joined both meetings.
To ensure the political will and commitment will be translated into actions, Mr. Thanya Netithammakun, Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) , Dr. Songtam Suksawang, DNP Inspector General, Mr. Kanchit Srinoppawan, Khao yai National Park Superintendent and relevant officials, met with the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). The Thai delegation learnt from the NPS’ experiences in the development of national parks management plans and how to involve youth and volunteers in national parks conservation. The NPS was led by Mr. Rudy D’Alessandro, International Cooperation Specialist. Mr. Todd Koenings, Executive Director of Global Parks, who has worked extensively with Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, also joined the meeting.