Research Report

Working Paper 6: On Being “Forest Thieves”

State Resource Policies, Market Forces and Struggle over Livelihood and Meaning of Nature in a Northwestern Valley of Vietnam

Since the early 1990s, a social phenomenon popularly labeled “forest thieves” (lâm tặc) has become one of the greatest concerns of both authorities and local people of Mường Tấc, a northwestern valley of Vietnam. A classic understanding as the illegal encroachment of local people into protected areas for their everyday livelihood is not new phenomena. What is different from the period prior to the 1990s, however, is the multiplicity and quantity of social actors involved in this illegal activity and aggressive acts of many local people toward state management agencies. Moving beyond the conventional explanation of resource conflicts and resource degradation as a direct result of “population growth”, “poverty” and “ignorance” of local resource users, this paper argues that the emergence of social conflicts over resources in the area in question in the past few years is the result of the articulation between the ecological adaptation of local people, resource policies of the postcolonial state of Vietnam, and market forces.

Publication date : August 2007
Price : 180 Baht / 7 US$