In contrast to the more spectacular ‘land grabs’ for tourism development, the smaller-scale, progressive encroachment by tourist establishments into protected environments has attracted little attention in the literature. This article seeks to highlight the issue by a case study of the Thai authorities’ crackdown on resorts and second homes encroaching upon protected forests in a national park area in Thailand. The study shows how the apparently resolute operation of the forest authorities fizzled out under legal and administrative complexities and growing opposition on the local and national level, while in its wake a neoliberal policy turn favoring tourist establishments in reserved forests was advocated. Owing to the complexities of the issues revealed by the case study, it is suggested that the dichotomous distinction between encroachment and legal ownership of land be abandoned in favour of a more nuanced terminology.
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