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National parks officials infuriated by reshuffle

More than 20 chiefs switched by Damrong

National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department officials have expressed frustration over a mass reshuffle of national park chiefs nationwide by newly-appointed director-general Damrong Pidech, who switched more than 20 jobs last week.

Mr Damrong signed an order to transfer 24 marine national park chiefs last Thursday _ just two days after the cabinet appointed him as the department’s director-general, replacing Sunan Arunnopparat.

At least 10 more national park chiefs were expected to be transferred this month, a source at the department said.

The mass reshuffle would result in the elimination of national park chiefs who were appointed by former environment and natural resources minister Suwit Khunkitti, the source said.

The source added that Mr Damrong is expected to put his men at the so-called Grade A national parks, such as Khao Yai in Nakhon Ratchasima, Sai Yok and Erawan in Kanchanaburi, Huay Nam Dung and Doi Suthep-Pui in Chiang Mai, and Phu Kradueng in Loei.

The source said the reshuffle list was jointly made by Mr Damrong and former environment and natural resources minister Yongyuth Tiyapairat, who has been banned from politics for five years for electoral fraud.

“I hope the director-general will put the right man in the right job,” the source said.

“The vicious cycle of putting the boss’s men in the top jobs should cease.”

The chief of a national marine park in Phangnga province said he considered his transfer to be unfair.

The official, who has been transferred to an inactive post at a protected forest management office, said if the transfers were aimed at getting rid of corrupt officials, then only those with poor records should be removed.

“Officials who are clean and don’t side with any politicians should not become victims of this unfair treatment,” said the official.

The former national marine park chief also voiced his concern over the department’s future if such unreasonable transfers continue.

“Any transfers should be done for the sake of the country’s natural resources, not for the benefits of those in power,” he said.

Mr Damrong, however, said the reshuffle of the chiefs of 24 out of 26 marine national parks was based on performance evaluations and was part of his attempt to tackle corruption at certain marine national parks.

He confirmed that more reshuffles would be made soon to replace retiring officials.

“The reshuffle is a kind of annual transfer. There’s nothing unusual,” he said, adding that some national park chiefs would be transferred for failing to tackle illegal logging in the park, especially of the precious payoong, or rosewood timber.

According to the department’s investigation, illegal logging of rosewood is rife in Khao Phra Viharn National Park in Si Sa Ket, Phu Jong Na Yoi National Park in Ubon Ratchathani and Huay Sala wildlife sanctuary in Buri Ram province.

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