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The Coevolution of Property Rights Regimes for Land, Man, and Forests in Thailand, 1790-1990

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Feeny, David
Conference: Inequality and the Commons, the Third Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Washington, DC
Conf. Date: September 17-20
Date: 1994
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8509
Sector: Forestry
Land Tenure & Use
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): forests
land tenure and use
property rights
agricultural expansion
Abstract: "The growth of markets for agricultural products led to the transformation of land rights in Thailand during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rights evolved from usufruct rights to a cadastral survey based system of land tilting. In contrast the commercialization of forestry resulted in the nationalization of forests. De jure state property was for the most part de facto open access. Widespread extra-legal logging and extensions of the areas under cultivation led to rapid and extensive deforestation. While much of this can be characterized as the conversion from low to high value use, both loggers and farmers have had few incentives to take negative externalities into account. Much of the natural resource rents for forest products were captured by government officials and the logging industry. The pattern for agricultural lands, although highly variable, has seen a much broader distribution of rents. Although there are important and notable exceptions, in general agricultural producers who cleared forest lands obtained the ownership rights. In Thailand privatization of agricultural land has been at least weakly associated with a broad distribution of benefits. In contrast, state ownership of forest lands has been associated with a narrow distribution of the benefits. The two property rights regimes have not operated in isolation. Exclusion from de jure state forest lands was unenforceable. While the rents from forests were appropriate by the few, the rents from converting forest to crop lands were captured by the many."

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