Environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa creates a firebreak during his visit to Phu Kradueng National Park on March 2, 2020.
Environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa creates a firebreak during his visit to Phu Kradueng National Park on March 2, 2020.

LOEI — A popular national park in Isaan will be closed for half a year due to widespread devastation caused by a recent wildfire, the environment minister said Monday.

Varawut Silpa-archa said Phu Kradueng National Park will be closed from April to September in order to allow its ecology to recover after a fire scorched about 3,400 rai (544 hectares) of forest land at the park earlier last month. Authorities suspect the fire resulted from human actions.

“This wildfire was the worst in 20 years’ time,” Varawut said during his inspection tour of the park on Monday. “It’s likely caused by humans. Their carelessness damaged 10 percent of the forest, but I believe it will recover after the rainy season.”

He added that the ministry will procure more equipment to increase its forest firefighting capability. Efforts to extinguish Phu Kradueng fire were delayed by the lack of appropriate tools, such as off-road tractors. Much of the high ground in Phu Kradueng is only accessible by foot or helicopter.

“I would like everyone to keep their eyes on our natural resources so that our children can enjoy them,” Varawut said. “We will step up patrols and law enforcement with no exceptions.”

Since late February, wildfires were also reported in several parts of the country including Phrae, Phetchaburi, Prachinburi, and Trat. In the latter case, firefighters were barred from reaching some of the fires near the Cambodian border due to the large number of Cold War-era landmines.

Acts of arson to clear land for agricultural use is a common culprit for forest fires in Thailand.

In August, fires destroyed more than 2,000 hectares of forests and farmlands in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Officials found incense sticks, matchsticks, and cloth dipped in fuel in the wreckage.

A navy helicopter drops water on the wildfire in Trat province.
A navy helicopter drops water on the wildfire in Trat province.
Forest fire in Prachinburi province.
Forest fire in Prachinburi province.

Related stories:

Fire Destroyed Thousands of Rai of Forest at Phu Kradueng

Weeks of Fire Destroyed Almost 14,500 Rai of Forest and Farms in Southern Thailand