SmartWood’s certification of the Forest Industry Organisation – Compliance with FSC Principles and Criteria

28 Aug


By Chris Lang. Published by WRM, August 2003.

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Whether FIO’s management complies with FSC Principles and Criteria should have been the key question for SmartWood to answer in their assessment of FIO’s two plantations. Before the certificate was awarded, FIO’s Chittiwat Silapat did not seem to think that achieving FSC certification would be difficult. He said, “We’ve left some native trees in the area, we’ve left some buffer zones along streams and along the border of the plantations. It’s almost the same as FSC principles and criteria” (Chittiwat 2000).

Before granting the certificate, SmartWood issued one pre-condition regarding wages. The pre-condition was later withdrawn after SmartWood was satisfied that FIO had met the requirements. In their Public Summary, SmartWood’s assessors listed 26 conditions that FIO had to meet in order to retain the certificate. The conditions illustrate clearly that, at the time SmartWood issued the certificate, FIO’s management was in breach of several FSC principles and criteria.[10]

As a record of the assessment of FIO, SmartWood has produced a Public Summary of the certification. FSC has certain guidelines about the information that should be available in such summary documents. For example, Motion 26a, which was passed at the 1999 FSC General Assembly, states that “Public Summary Documents shall contain sufficient information to make clear the correlation between the specific results of the certification assessment and FSC Principles and Criteria.”

SmartWood’s public summary fails to do this. There is extremely limited information in the Public Summary about how SmartWood considered FIO’s management against FSC’s Principles. For example, SmartWood’s 26 conditions are listed in the public summary, but with no explanation of how the conditions relate to FSC’s Principles.

The introduction to FSC’s Principles and Criteria states,

    “FSC and FSC-accredited certification organizations will not insist on perfection in satisfying the P&C. However, major failures in any individual Principles will normally disqualify a candidate from certification, or will lead to decertification. These decisions will be taken by individual certifiers, and guided by the extent to which each Criterion is satisfied, and by the importance and consequences of failures. Some flexibility will be allowed to cope with local circumstances” (FSC 2000: 1).

However, what constitutes a “major failure” is not defined in the principles. A great deal is left up to the individual certifier. Perhaps as an attempt to clarify this, FSC wrote in January 1998, “As from 1st January 1999 ALL certification body scoring and decision support systems must demonstrate explicitly, and at the level of each FSC Principle individually, that the Principle has been met by the forest management enterprise in order for a certificate to be awarded” (FSC 1998).

SmartWood’s Public Summary (produced in June 2001) includes no scoring at all. The Public Summary does not demonstrate at the level of each FSC Principle how SmartWood’s consultants believe that the Principle has been met.

The draft version of the “SmartWood Certification Assessment Report”, dated 24 January 2001, however, includes the following tables:

SmartWood’s scoring principles

Score Performance Compliance
1 Extremely weak Pre-condition
2 Weak performance Pre-condition optional
3 Satisfactory Condition optional
4 Favourable Recommendation
5 Outstanding  

Score for TPP and KKY

FSC Principle Score TPP Score KKY
1. Law 3.1 3.3
2. Tenure & use rights 3.0 3.0
3. Indigenous peoples    
4. Community & workers 2.4 2.6
5. Benefits from forests 3.3 3.4
6. Environment 2.9 3.1
7. Management plan 2.7 3.0
8. Monitoring 3.2 3.2
9. Conservation forests    
10. Plantations 2.9 3.0
Aggregated score 2.95 3.08

(Source: SCC Natura 2001: 31-32)

According to this table, SmartWood judged FIO’s management at Thong Pha Phum to be slightly less than “Satisfactory” and at Khao Kra Yang to be just “Satisfactory”.[11]

SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines for Assessing Forest Management state: “In order to pass certification, certified operations must have an average score above 3 for each subject area . . .” (SmartWood 2000a: 3). If SmartWood’s assessors had applied their own guidelines strictly, Thong Pha Phum would have failed against the following principles: 6 (Environment); 7 (Management Plan); and 10 (Plantations); as well as 4 (Community and Workers) for which it received a pre-condition.

However, instead of rejecting FIO’s application for FSC certification, SmartWood issued the certificate with 26 conditions.

In August 2001, Richard Donovan of Rainforest Alliance and Jeffrey Hayward of SmartWood wrote,

    “Our main function is to determine if their new efforts result in a style of management that is more balanced between social, economic, and environmental values and that meets the principles and criteria of the FSC. This means that we require each management unit to have put in place practices (not just promises) that meet the FSC standards. They have to meet our conditions or the certificates will be revoked” (Donovan and Hayward 2001 emphasis added).

Fifteen of SmartWood’s conditions had to be met within one year of the certificate being awarded. In May 2002, SmartWood’s team was back to check that FIO had in fact met the conditions. SmartWood found that FIO had failed to meet five of the conditions and had only “partially met” seven more conditions. However, instead of revoking the certificate as promised, SmartWood issued a series of “corrective action requests” with new deadlines. These requests are in many cases weaker than the conditions originally imposed and serve simply to let FIO off the hook.

The following compares the reality of FIO’s plantations with FSC’s Principles and Criteria.[12]


    Forest management shall respect all applicable laws of the country in which they occur, and international treaties and agreements to which the country is a signatory, and comply with all FSC Principles and Criteria.

Perhaps the most obvious law that SmartWood should have considered in the case of FIO is the ban on logging concessions, passed by the Thai government in January 1989. Yet SmartWood’s Public Summary includes no mention of the logging ban.

FER’s Virawat Dheeraprasert worked for almost 25 years at the Royal Forestry Department. He argues that the plantations were established as part of logging concessions, and are therefore covered under Thailand’s logging ban. He said,

    “The land is a former logging concession area. The area was replanted by the FIO under the guidelines of the logging concessions and is therefore not actually ‘plantation’ land. The land belongs to the citizens of Thailand and is managed by the Royal Forestry Department for the Thai State. In this case the RFD gave the land areas to FIO not for cutting and selling but under the terms of logging concession guidelines for replanting and ecological recovery” (Virawat 2002).

According to SmartWood’s Public Summary, FIO has registered both Thong Pha Phum and Khao Kra Yang under the Forest Plantations Act (1992) but Virawat challenges the legality of this registration. He said,

    “The land cannot be considered as a plantation. It doesn’t come under the 1992 plantations act, because this act is aimed at getting private companies to invest in plantations. FIO is state enterprise. FIO could register the land as a plantation in order to log, but under the plantations act the area is planted so the company can cut and sell logs. In this case the RFD gave the land areas to FIO not for cutting and selling but under the terms of logging concessions guidelines for replanting and ecological recovery.

    “In order to register as a plantation it has to be done by the owner of the plantation. Which means that the FIO can’t register the plantation as it is not the owner of the plantation,” said Virawat” (Virawat 2002a).

When asked why there was no mention of the logging ban in SmartWood’s public summary, Pearmsak Makarabhirom, one of SmartWood’s assessors replied,

    “I feel like the logging ban just did not translate into the Thai society appropriately. Who made the decisions, the official translation of the law? It’s the government, they can say you can log, you cannot log. You are doing so legally, you are doing so illegally. I think that it’s not very clear. In the case of FIO, I feel it is very complicated. The purpose of some plantations planted by FIO is very clear: it’s for commercial purpose. But in many plantation areas now under the FIO the trees were planted by logging concessionaires a long time ago. The purpose was not commercial, but was to form restoration forest. In fact, nobody knows. I think that it’s too complicated. How can we know which areas were planted for commercial purposes and which area planted for restoration? And if they planted for restoration, why did they plant a teak plantation like this?” (Pearmsak 2002).

However, for Richard Donovan of Rainforest Alliance and Jeffrey Hayward of SmartWood, there is no confusion and no complications. They explained SmartWood’s position on the logging ban as follows:

    “As to the issue of the commercial log ban, it is important to be very clear on the scope of the ban. Although TERRA espouses the view that there should be no commercial logging in Thailand, the logging ban does not apply to these teak plantations. . . . The logging ban appears to have been extremely important for protecting Thai natural resources and fostering ecological recovery. We respect the logging ban on natural forests and certified operations must do so as well. However, the logging ban does not extend to the teak (or other species) plantations managed by FIO and other organizations/individuals” (Donovan and Hayward 2001).

In other words, SmartWood’s assessors have decided that the logging ban simply does not apply to FIO’s plantations. In doing so, they are ignoring an ongoing discussion in Thailand about the logging ban and the role of the FIO. Further, SmartWood’s position on the logging ban is contrary to SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines for Assessing Forest Management, which state: “The purpose of the certification process is not to assess actual legal compliance; that is the mandated task of government institutions” (SmartWood 2000a: 5).

SmartWood’s Guidelines continue,

    “But SmartWood must check with government agencies and other stakeholders to verify that an operation is dealing with legal requirements in a responsible fashion, and in some cases the field assessment can be a valuable way for helping operations improve the quality of their compliance” (SmartWood 2000a: 5).

As mentioned above, SmartWood’s Public Summary contains no discussion about the logging ban in Thailand. It contains no information about any discussions that SmartWood’s consultants had with government agencies or “other stakeholders” about whether FIO’s logging operations are legal. As mentioned above, the SmartWood team’s consultation with Thai NGOs was so weak that SmartWood’s assessors must be in breach of SmartWood’s own guidelines.

An important point about the logging ban in Thailand is that it did not appear as if from nowhere. It was, at least in part, the result of a campaign by villagers and NGOs opposing logging and its impacts on forests and people.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, editor of the magazine Watershed, and a senior NGO figure in Thailand described the background to the logging ban as follows:

    “In my view there are two things that happened in parallel. One was because of the campaign on Nam Choan dam[13] which drew the attention of people to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, especially Tung Yai and Huay Kha Kheng. At that time at Huay Kha Kheng, there was a concession area for the Thai Plywood Company, which they had not yet started logging. This became an issue after the Nam Choan dam campaign, how can we get the Huay Kha Kheng concession cancelled? So people started looking at the relationship between logging concessions and forest areas that we found that important to protect.

    “Another thing that happened, in the north of Thailand, local people in Chiang Mai started a movement to fight against the logging companies. They blockaded roads in some areas, monks ordained trees. We can say that this was the beginning of the community forest movement in the north, but it started from opposition to logging companies. It became news at a national level. The protests spread to other areas such as Loei province and Rayong province.

    “I remember that we organised a conference at Kasetsart University. The meeting involved both groups: a network of people working on protected areas; and local communities that were fighting against logging companies. The idea was to discuss issues surrounding logging in Thailand. The night before the seminar the devastating floods happened in the south. So the seminar focussed on the impact of logging concessions. After the seminar, the various networks demanded that the government impose a logging ban.

    “Before the logging ban, everyone thought that it was impossible to stop the logging. Every politician was somehow involved in the logging business. But after the logging ban, the issue changed to ‘the logging ban is wrong, how can you manage or maintain the forest if you take all the forest area back from the companies?’ The argument is that logging is not a bad thing, logging is a way to manage the forest. This is scientific forestry. All the foresters came out very strongly arguing ‘how can we manage the forests without logging?'” (Witoon 2002)
    1.1 Forest management shall respect all national and local laws and administrative requirements.

SmartWood’s condition 2 states: “By the end of year 1, FIO must review the Local Administration Organization (TAO) Act (1994) and ensure that the plantations respect all of the act’s requirements” (SmartWood 2001: 30). This implies that at the time the certificate was awarded, SmartWood’s assessors were unable to asses whether FIO’s plantations conformed to FSC’s criterion 1.1. SmartWood’s first year audit claims that this condition has been closed, although no further information is given.

When asked about this condition, Surapong Supkai, president of the council of the TAO in Huay Kayeng subdistrict, near Thong Pha Phum, said, “FIO come, they talk, they are invited to the meetings, they come and talk about various things, but they never talk about that, they never talk of that” (Surapong 2002).

    1.2 All applicable and legally prescribed fees, royalties, taxes and other charges shall be paid.

In June 2001, SmartWood issued a condition regarding payments to local authorities. Condition 3 states: “By the end of year 1, FIO will make available at the plantations clear documentation that payments were made for taxes and required fees made in the previous year, which specify date, quantity paid, and to whom” (SmartWood 2001: 30). In the first year audit, SmartWood’s assessors claim that this condition has been closed, but provide no further details.

In August 2002, Surapong Supkai, of the TAO in Huay Kayeng subdistrict near Thong Pha Phum, commented,

    “Two years ago, we sent a letter to the FIO about these taxes that have to be paid to the TAO from the revenue from the [logging], but FIO hasn’t replied yet. The head office in Bangkok replied. They said there are some problems with the process and they still can’t pay the taxes. After that they have not done anything.

    “Sometimes the head of the FIO comes to the TAO meetings but he never talks about taxes, he just talks of other things. The assumption is that the head office has already replied that there are some problems but they don’t talk about it” (Surapong 2002).

When asked about condition 3 and whether FIO had met the condition, Surapong simply said, “Never. For the past two years, never” (Surapong 2002).

Soonan Nawan, a former head man of Ban Wang Nam Khieo, a village near Thong Pha Phum said, “In reality the FIO has not paid any taxes to the local area, and the income they got from selling they’ve not given to develop the village” (Soonan Nawan 2002).

In Pitsanulok, when Sakorn Songma, of the Centre for Building Local Organisations for Ecological Recovery, was asked about the issue of taxes to be paid to local TAO, he replied, “I went and looked at the income records of the TAO and the TAO did not get any income from the FIO. They only have funds from the central government and from local taxes” (Sakorn 2002).

    1.6 Forest managers shall demonstrate a long-term commitment to adhere to the FSC Principles and Criteria.

SmartWood’s condition 4 states: “By the end of year 1, FIO’s Administrative Board should endorse its commitment to the FSC P&C and should communicate this commitment to a broad range of stakeholders, which may include staff, workers, local district administration, and neighboring communities” (SmartWood 2001: 4-5).

In the first year audit, SmartWood claimed that this condition had been “partially met”, without giving any further information. SmartWood’s team replaced condition 4 with a corrective action request. CAR 1-2002 states: “Within 6 months, FIO must put into action communication of what its commitment to FSC P&C means in terms of its policies, plans, and activities, especially to the broad range of stakeholders” (SmartWood 2002: 37). It is difficult to see how SmartWood’s assessors could consider the condition to be partially met, given the work that FIO still has to do to meet the corrective action request, which is more or less identical to condition 4.


    Long-term tenure and use rights to the land and forest resources shall be clearly defined, documented and legally established.

The whole issue of tenure, access and rights to management in Thailand is a highly charged political arena. For many years, local villagers and NGOs have campaigned on these issues, demanding land rights for villagers and Thailand’s hill-tribes or indigenous peoples.

In both Thong Pha Phum and Khao Kra Yang people were using the land before FIO established its plantations. SmartWood’s Public Summary acknowledged that “local farmers used the area for shifting cultivation” but commented “At the time when these plantations were established, 20 to 30 years ago, the shifting cultivators did not have title to the land and therefore the government of Thailand or FIO offered no formal compensation payment” (SmartWood 2001: 11).

    2.1 Clear evidence of long-term forest use rights to the land (e.g. land title, customary rights, or lease agreements) shall be demonstrated.

SmartWood’s condition 5 states: “By the end of the year 2, FIO plantations shall produce a complete list and an “Ownership Map” that includes the location, area, and period of validity, etc. for each parcel that FIO has land use rights” (SmartWood 2001: 30). This implies that at the time of the certification FIO was not able to demonstrate to SmartWood clear evidence of use rights to the land.

Condition 6, which related only to Khao Kra Yang, states: “During the period of certification, KKY will take action to legalize KKY’s land area related to forest plantation law – in particular they must confirm their land use rights” (SmartWood 2001: 33). Putting aside the question of whether FIO can, as a state enterprise, register its plantations under the Forest Plantation Act (see above, under Principle 1), this condition indicates that FIO was unable to confirm land use rights at the time that the certificate was awarded.

A year later, SmartWood announced that condition 6 had been partially met, although the public summary provides no further information. SmartWood’s first year audit replaces condition 6 with a correction action request. CAR 2-2002 states: “By the time of the next annual audit, KKY shall proceed with steps necessary to register the lands of the office, arboretum, and seed orchard (for itself) and of the forest village area (for the forest villagers)” (SmartWood 2002: 37). This indicates that there are still serious doubts as to whether FIO’s activities at Khao Kra Yang conform to FSC’s criterion 2.1.

    2.2 Local communities with legal or customary tenure or use rights shall maintain control, to the extent necessary to protect their rights or resources, over forest operations unless they delegate control with free and informed consent to other agencies.

The FIO plantations at Thong Pha Phum were established by the Royal Forestry Department. To do so it simply took villagers’ fallow land, fields and forest and converted it to teak plantation. The example of Ban Huay Paak Kok, a village near Thong Pha Phum, indicates how the Royal Forestry Department took over villager’s land.

Ban Huay Paak Kok was settled by Karen, Mon and Burmese people fleeing from fighting during the Second World War. Niprapar Riancharoen, a village elder from Ban Huay Paak Kok, described the forest before logging concessions were granted in the area. “It was very fertile forest area at that time. It was so thick that it was always wet. If you washed your clothes it would take a week to dry,” he said (Niprapar 2002).

According to Niprapar, after the concessions were logged, the Royal Forestry Department gave concessions to replant and started to prepare plots for replanting in 1975. The following year, the RFD started planting. Niprapar said,

    “they were also encroaching on village people’s land and village people had to start moving their farmland away. Obviously the villagers were using it because there were a lot of vegetables and other things being grown there. So why were they coming and taking it?” (Niprapar 2002).

Villagers were told that because they did not have land certificates they could not claim rights to the land.

After about five years, the RFD stopped planting, and the FIO took over. None of the villagers from Ban Huay Paak Kok worked for the FIO, partly because the work was very seasonal. Niprapar said, “more than 3,000 households of Burmese came to work on the plantations” (Niprapar 2002).

As a result of losing their land to plantations, villagers were forced to look for new areas to cultivate, and took forest areas across the river from their village.

Niprapar said, “How can they call it sustainable, because it has been planted and now it is being cut and sold? How can it be called sustainable management? Their sustainable should be that the trees should grow and should be used by the villagers” (Niprapar 2002).

    2.3 Appropriate mechanisms shall be employed to resolve disputes over tenure claims and use rights. The circumstances and status of any outstanding disputes will be explicitly considered in the certification evaluation. Disputes of substantial magnitude involving a significant number of interests will normally disqualify an operation from being certified.

SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines for Assessing Forest Management state that resource conflicts should be “being addressed in a systematic and legal manner” (SmartWood 2000a: 7). There is no mechanism in place at either Thong Pha Phum or Khao Kra Yang to resolve disputes over tenure claims. SmartWood’s Public Summary observes that villagers living in FIO’s Forest Villages resent the fact that they have not received title to their lands. Elsewhere SmartWood’s Public Summary comments, “The forest villagers of KKY continue to view that land tenure as the problem [sic]. But they do not know how to proceed with this. They may even be reluctant to talk to unit managers” (SmartWood 2001: 22). Clearly, resource conflicts are not being addressed in a systematic or legal manner as required by SmartWood’s own guidelines.

SmartWood’s condition 7 states: “By the end of year 1, FIO plantations should make plans to formalize existing informal land and resource use arrangements through written agreements or contracts. By the end of year 2, the plans should be implemented” (SmartWood 2001: 31).

In their first year audit, SmartWood announced that this condition had been “partially met” without giving any further details. SmartWood replaced condition 7 with CAR 3-2002, which states, “By the time of the next annual audit, NTFP collection and other informal resource uses are to be formalized by participatory methods among the users and FIO officers. FIO will implement plans and agreements that are in written form” (SmartWood 2002: 37).

In fact, according to Niprapar Riancharoen, a village elder at Ban Huay Paak Kok, near Thong Pha Phum, villagers are simply not allowed into the plantations. He said, “They don’t let the villagers go into the [plantation] area and try to use it. My son got caught once for entering the area. They tried to put him in jail, but he got him out. They tried to make a case against him, for forest encroachment. He went to take a dead tree to make charcoal and they caught him” (Niprapar 2002).


    The legal and customary rights of indigenous peoples to own, use and manage their lands, territories, and resources shall be recognised and respected.

SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines for Assessing Forest Management comment: “Fairness to indigenous peoples has been one of the founding crucibles of the FSC and the SmartWood program. However, in order to achieve such fairness, first there must be clarity as to which groups constitute ‘indigenous'” (SmartWood 2000a: 7) SmartWood’s guidelines then quote the FSC definition of indigenous peoples:

    “The existing descendants of the peoples who inhabited the present territory of a country wholly or partially at the time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there from other parts of the world, overcame them and, by conquest, settlement, or other means reduced them to a non-dominant or colonial situation; who today live more in conformity with their particular social, economic and cultural customs and traditions than with the institutions of the country of which they now form a part, under State structure which incorporates mainly the national, social and cultural characteristics of other segments of the population which are predominant. (Working definition adopted by the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples)” (FSC 2000: 8).

SmartWood’s guidelines continue, “If there are any doubts as to whether groups qualify under this definition, please contact SmartWood” (SmartWood 2000a: 7).

In its Public Summary, SmartWood’s assessment team states that in Thong Pha Phum,

    “Historically, the area was used for shifting agriculture by Karen and Mon ethnic groups, who migrated from near the Myanmar [sic] border about 100 years ago. At the time of establishment, in 1978, those people who lived along the river, outside the plantation area, and those new migrants (about 50 years ago) from northern Thailand, cultivated the area that is now the plantation” (SmartWood 2001: 4).

Karen people have lived for centuries in what is now Thailand, predating the arrival of Tai-speaking groups, including the Thai who now form the dominant ethnic group in Thailand (Prasert and Leake 2002: 272). Karen and Mon peoples have their own languages, customs and culture independent of the language, customs and culture of the Thai.

Given FSC’s definition of “indigenous people” it would appear that there is a strong case for considering the Karen and Mon peoples living in Thong Pha Phum as indigenous. However, a more important point is that it is up to the Karen and Mon people (or people belonging to any other ethnic groups) themselves, and not SmartWood’s consultants, to define whether or not they are indigenous.

The principle of self-identification is recognised in Article 8 of the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is currently under discussion at the United Nations Human Rights Commission (Colchester 1999: 6).

The International Labour Organisation’s Convention Indigenous and Tribal Peoples 1989 (ILO 169) makes clear the importance of the principle of self-identification: “Self-identification as indigenous or tribal shall be regarded as a fundamental criterion for determining the groups to which the provisions of this Convention apply” (Article 1(2)).

Tim Synnott, then-head of the FSC Policy and Standards Unit, said in November 2001, “The aim is that FSC should adopt in ALL countries the implications of ALL the relevant [ILO] Conventions, even when some of them are still legally unratified in some countries” (Synnott 2001).

Yet, SmartWood’s assessors report in the Public Summary that “TPP and KKY have not had indigenous people, as per FSC definition. In TPP, most villagers migrated from the lower North of Thailand, e.g. Mae Sot of Tak province, Phrae province, and the Northeast” (SmartWood 2001 12). There is no information in the public summary about how SmartWood’s assessors came to this conclusion or whether they even spoke to any Karen or Mon people living near the plantations.


    Forest management operations shall maintain or enhance the long-term social and economic well being of forest workers and local communities.

SmartWood gave FIO a pre-condition against this principle, demanding that FIO increases workers’ salaries at both plantation sites. Obviously, given the low wages at FIO’s plantations, villagers working for FIO welcome any increase. However, as discussed below, the situation is not as straightforward as reported in SmartWood’s Public Summary. There remain serious questions about FIO’s employment practices and relations with local communities who are not employed in FIO’s plantations.

SmartWood’s pre-condition stated that “Prior to certification, FIO plantations will prepare verifiable documentation of workers’ wages and other payments that will demonstrate and ensure that the daily wage, piecework production bonus, and/or any other benefits, are increased to meet or exceed the regional norm” (SmartWood 2001: 26). Before issuing the certificate, SmartWood was satisfied that FIO had met this precondition by raising the daily wage to approximately 130 baht (about US$3.25), depending on the worker’s job.

However, in August 2002, more than one year after the wages should have been increased, workers at Thong Pha Phum still may have seen no pay rise. When asked how much daily wages were, Soonan Nawan, a former head of Ban Wang Nam Khieo, answered,

    “90 baht per day. I want people to understand the reality that local people have no benefit from this plantation. FIO keeps taking migrant labour from outside. Basically they have a system where they contact a middle man. The Burmese get 90 baht, and it is written down as 140 baht or 130 baht and the rest of the money is given to the middle man. So the local people don’t get anything more than that” (Soonan 2002).

He also explained that he did not trust FIO’s documents:

    “Those people whose names are there probably don’t even work for FIO. They just sign it. They get 10 baht for signing. FIO tells the middle men to hire a group of Burmese people and they give them 90 baht. The Burmese work for 90 baht, the middle man gets 40 baht just for hiring. The villagers who sign their names to validate the whole thing get 10 baht each. FIO is not allowed to hire illegal Burmese immigrants” (Soonan 2002).

SmartWood’s Public Summary expressed a similar concern about FIO’s documenting of wages at Khao Kra Yang:

    “The KKY management will still need to improve the system for documenting the pay to workers, so that this can be made more transparent to SmartWood auditors in the future. For example, the Evidence of Payment Document for Contractors (Piecemeal Work), which is the document signed by the workers upon receipt of their payment, did not include the amount that each worker was paid. Apparently this amount is filled in later, after payment. To ensure fairness, and to be more transparent, the amount of Baht must be put down on the document prior to the payment of the wage to the worker” (SmartWood 2001: 28).

However, SmartWood’s concern does not translate into a condition, no deadline is given by which time FIO must comply and SmartWood gives no indication of how they propose to check whether or not FIO has complied with this request.

SmartWood’s team added condition 26 after their audit in April 2001 (which was carried out to assess whether FIO had met the pre-condition requirements), and also relates to workers’ wages. Condition 26 states: “During the period of certification, FIO plantations will maintain daily wage rates, piecemeal rates, and/or other benefits for workers that consistently meet or exceed the regional standard rate” (SmartWood 2001: 32). However, this condition is not referred to in SmartWood’s first year audit.

Richard Donovan of Rainforest Alliance and Jeffrey Hayward of SmartWood, claim that the pre-conditions and conditions imposed by SmartWood,

    “produced some dramatic changes. . . . The most important changes were in terms of the relationship between forest villagers and the plantations, and of most concern to us, the distribution of benefits to the workers. In fact, FIO was not initially able to meet our certification standards. SmartWood issued a precondition requiring FIO to raise the level of worker compensation commensurate to the minimum wage in the province. In the villages where people work for FIO this represented income gains of 20 to 40% for most workers. Without FSC certification we do not believe this would have happened” (Donovan and Hayward 2001).

However, Virawat Dheeraprasert of FER, responded,

    “SmartWood focuses on wages more than on other issues such as ecosystem, watershed area, the Queen Sirikit crab and so on. SmartWood thinks that the point about wages is important for local people, but in reality, the point is that local people want to go beyond this question of wages, for example now local people area asking is the plantation destroying their livelihoods or their culture or their community and what are the benefits to local people in this area, other than wages for example. And also what about other questions like the local participation in decision making? The point being that when SmartWood talks about local people, they are talking only of a wage earning kind of population. They are not supposed to have any other interest” (Virawat 2002a).

Virawat also pointed out that there are mechanisms within Thailand for improving wages, and that the situation is not necessarily as straightforward as SmartWood’s assessment team makes out. He said,

    “Whatever low wages there are in the area is something that can be changed within Thailand by Thai laws, because there is a minimum wage act. So if local people are suffering because of lower wages, they can demand and change, there’s no need that FSC or SmartWood has to come and certify areas so that they can get higher wages. This is the whole point of the local situation.

    “Local people also are saying that they want to manage the forest; it’s not just a question of wanting a factor of wages. They also say that logging a forest is not what they think of as sustainable forest management. They want to do other things like ecotourism or allow research or get NTFPs which they can sell. And these things they feel can provide them a better standard of living. This is how local people want to use these areas. However, FSC says that wages are important. If FSC claims that wages are important, it’s not true because if it is logged, the area is logged, local people may get wages, but if it is left to grow as forest, local people feel they may get actually long term security rather than these areas logged.

    “The concept of local security is different. It is not just the factor of wages alone. This basically then requires understanding local culture, local context and the many factors involved in local people’s happiness and local people’s living as a community. This question of wages is a very northern aspect where the FSC feels that the community can live on wages alone, but local people in rural Thailand have various other factors even happiness and how to live in a community. And not just one question of how much money can we get. This basically is a reflection of how much unaware of local culture and tradition FSC is. It is unaware of rural conditions because FSC uses standards of urban living such as a good wage” (Virawat 2002b).
    4.1 The communities within, or adjacent to, the forest management area should be given opportunities for employment, training, and other services.

SmartWood’s condition 9 states:

    “During the period of certification, FIO plantations should ensure that a significant portion of its work force originates from local villages. By the end of year 1, plantations must have an employment register that will document worker names, place of residence, nationality, identity card number, sex, age, and number of days worked” (SmartWood 2001: 31).

Many of the people employed at FIO’s Thong Pha Phum plantation immigrated recently to Thailand from Burma. Soonan Nawan, a former head man of the FIO forest village at Ban Wang Nam Khieo, said,

    “At first the village members of the forest village got some land and they were working, but later on things got worse. Nowadays, local people are not working there any more; it’s mostly Burmese migrant labour, who work in the forest village” (Soonan 2002).

SmartWood’s assessment team observe in the Public Summary that “Significant numbers of ‘outside’ workers make up the current labor force – apparently due to low wage rates, which local people find inadequate.” SmartWood’s assessors added, “FIO should find the way to make good on their policy of giving priority in employment to local residents” (SmartWood 2001: 26).

The “outside’ workers,” that SmartWood referred to, are largely people who have recently come to Thailand from Burma and who may not be able to return because of the military regime in Burma. SmartWood gives no indication what these people should do if FIO were to sack them in order to employ local people.

Among the documents that SmartWood’s assessment team reviewed during the first year audit was one entitled KKY “almost completed” Employment Register, totaling 234 workers. No Employment Register is mentioned for Thong Pha Phum. In the first year audit, SmartWood decided that condition 9 had been “partially met”, without providing any further information.

SmartWood’s first year audit replaced condition 9 with two corrective action requests.

    “CAR 4-2002: Within 6 months, and prior to inclusion of any new plantation under the FIO certificate, minimum pay must be raised to the regional minimum wage and the plantation authority undertaking the responsibility of this raise must be supported in doing so by the FIO HQ” (SmartWood 2002: 37).

    “CAR 5-2002: Within 3 months, and prior to inclusion of any new plantation under the FIO certificate, the register of the workers must be improved to clearly indicate the tasks and number of days worked by each worker, for the work/task accomplishment per month, along with the exact amount of payment – in order to make the information applicable for audits” (SmartWood 2002: 37).
    4.2 Forest management should meet or exceed all applicable laws and/or regulations covering health and safety of employees and their families.

SmartWood’s condition 10 states: “By the end of year 1, FIO plantations will provide appropriate safety equipment to those requiring it.” (SmartWood 2001: 31). This indicates that safety equipment may not have been available (or adequate) at the time of the certification. SmartWood’s first year audit states that this condition was not met. However, rather than revoking the certificate, SmartWood simply replaced condition 10 with two corrective action requests.

    “CAR 6-2002: “By the time of the next annual audit, FIO shall implement systematic rules and policies within all certified plantations, to offer adequate and similar worker compensation to workers injured on the job and to fairly handle worker health and safety isses [sic], particularly workplace accidents and incidental death” (SmartWood 2002: 37).

    “CAR 7-2002: “By the time of the next annual audit, FIO shall implement systematic training of workers in use of appropriate safety equipment and practices. Training is particularly important for workers in high risk or high skill operations, such as chainsaw operators or log yarders. Training programs shall be taught by experienced individuals, and utilize appropriate manuals and experiential coursework. FIO shall ensure that all workers are equipped with adequate safety equipment, and using it, for their jobs” (SmartWood 2002: 38).
    4.5 Appropriate mechanisms shall be employed for resolving grievances and for providing fair compensation in the case of loss or damage affecting the legal or customary rights, property, resources, or livelihoods of local peoples. Measures shall be taken to avoid such loss or damage.

When FIO established their plantations they simply took the land from local communities. These communities have never received any compensation from FIO.

SmartWood issued a condition relating to relations between FIO and local communities. Condition 11 stated: “By the end of year 1, FIO plantations will appoint one staff member with a mandate and responsibility for implementation and documentation of a formal public consultation process. (This staff member may be considered the ‘Community Relations Officer’)” (SmartWood 2001: 31). This indicates clearly that at the time of certification there was no mechanism for resolving grievances with FIO.

One year later, there was still no community relations officer. SmartWood confirmed in their first year audit that FIO had failed to meet this condition. Again, rather than withdrawing the certificate, SmartWood issued a corrective action request to replace condition 11.

    “CAR 8-2002: Within 6 months, FIO shall demonstrate that in all certified plantations there is at least one Community Relations Officer with proper training in place and functionioning [sic] with the full support of FIO management” (SmartWood 2002: 38).

When asked whether FIO consults with local people before logging, Chittiwat Silapat of the FIO said, “Frankly speaking I don’t really know. But what I have been informed, in those plantations they have started a dialogue in those villages, not really a committee, but some interested groups. They have some dialogue and they have some meetings from time to time to talk with them. And they have done a really good job. The villagers are very praising of them. Maybe because they generate a lot of income to the area” (Chittiwat 2002).

Virawat commented,

    “This is not a participation process. It is only public relations for the FIO. Participation must begin with decisions on sustainable forest management and whether local people agree or not with the plans. Local people must be in a position to evaluate the FIO’s work” (Virawat 2002a).

Condition 11 also required FIO to:

    1. create an updated list of stakeholders, such as contract workers, FIO workers, community members, adjoining landowners, etc;
    2. create an updated list of neighboring villages, their locations and populations;
    3. conduct regular meetings with stakeholders;
    4. document outcomes of consultation meetings,
    5. use these outcomes to assist in evaluating the social impacts of FIO activities” (SmartWood 2001: 31).

This condition was to be met “during the period of certification”, but as none of these points are included in CAR 8-2002, it appears that since the first year audit, they are no longer required. Comments from villagers indicate that FIO has made little or no attempt to comply with this condition.

In August 2001, Noel Rajesh of TERRA visited Ban Prajam Mai, near Thong Pha Phum. The village is not one of FIO’s forest villages and FIO employs no one in the village. FIO has provided no benefits to the village in the past. The village head man and a village representative of the Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) told Rajesh that the area was formerly fertile forest before FIO established its plantations. FIO did not consult with either villagers or local TAO members before starting to log its plantations.

Rajesh also visited Ban Paak Kok, a Karen village which was established more than 60 years ago. Again villagers told him that before the FIO started its plantations, the area contained fertile wet evergreen forest. Then the government awarded logging concessions in the area which led to the clearfelling of almost one-third of the forest area. Once the area was logged, FIO established its plantations. Villagers living in and using the surrounding forest area were pushed out and the FIO did not allow villagers to use the forest area. Some of the villagers in Ban Paak Kok worked as hired labour in the plantations, but other than hiring the villagers as labour FIO has never provided the village with any infrastructure such as water or electricity.

Villagers in both villages visited were concerned that if the area is cleared of trees there will be impacts such as the drying of water sources (Rajesh 2002c).

Niprapar Riancharoen, a village elder at Ban Huay Paak Kok, near Thong Pha Phum, remembers that when the plantations were first established, the water table dropped and streams in the area dried up. “We are afraid that if they log, clearcut the area we’ll face the same problem. There were actually fights about water, because there was water scarcity at that time” (Niprapar 2002). However, no one from FIO has been to the village to discuss their plans for the plantations with the villagers. Niprapar had never heard of SmartWood, and he had only heard of FSC from Virawat Dheeraprasert of FER.

SmartWood’s condition 12 states: “By the end of year 2, FIO plantations must develop a policy and mechanism for formal resolution of grievances, including measures to refer unresolved issues to a higher forum to adjudicate” (SmartWood 2001: 31). In other words, at the time of certification there was no appropriate mechanism for resolving grievances, which is in breach of criterion 4.5. SmartWood’s first year audit makes no mention of condition 12 and does not discuss whether FIO has taken any steps towards developing “a policy mechanism for formal resolution of grievances”.


    Forest management operations shall encourage the efficient use of the forest’s multiple products and services to ensure economic viability and a wide range of environmental and social benefits.

In the context of Principle 5, SmartWood defines its mandate as “to evaluate economic viability from the perspective of ensuring, as much as possible, that sound long-term investments are being made by the operation in terms of forest management, conservation and local communities” (SmartWood 2000a: 9).

FIO’s forest management in the two plantations that have been certified is focussed mainly on producing teak with rubber production and eco-tourism as sidelines. Local people are not allowed access to the plantations. However, the organisation is heavily in debt and loses money every year. Villagers living near the plantations, but not employed by FIO, receive no environmental or social benefits from the plantation.

SCC Natura’s Tomas Jonsson wrote in the FIO project Final Report that “‘economic forest management’ does not exist within FIO since the company runs at a considerable loss each year. . . . Undoubtedly FIO’s main concern is still the lack of profitability” (SCC Natura 2001: 9).

Jan Attebring, another consultant for SCC Natura wrote in a 2000 report about certification and FIO, “TPP is maybe too small to be sufficient on its own as a sustainable commercial unit, the possibility to share resources with nearby plantations should be investigated” (Attebring 2000: 3).

However, SmartWood’s assessment team seems to disagree with SCC Natura. They wrote in the Public Summary:

    “From 2001 onward, eco-tourism revenue is expected to increase due to completion of new tourist facilities, currently under construction. Latex production will increase from 2005 onward, as new rubber plantations established in 1998/1999 come into production. These increasing revenues and profits, along with continued revenue from wood production, will safeguard TPP’s economic viability over the next 10 years” (SmartWood 2001: 14).
    5.2 Forest management and marketing operations should encourage the optimal use and local processing of the forest’s diversity of products.

SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines on Assessing Forest Management state that to meet the criteria, the following should be in place:

    “FMO [forest management unit] encourages utilization of frequently occurring, lesser known, or less-commonly utilized plant species for commercial and subsistence uses. Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are considered during forest use and processing. Local processing is emphasised where possible” (SmartWood 2000a: 9).

Dealing with each point in turn:

  • The two plantations are predominantly teak plantations. FIO does not use lesser known or less-commonly utilised species in either plantation, except in buffer zones or conservation zones, which are not logged.
  • SmartWood’s Public Summary reported that “NTFPs are collected, consumed and sold by local people with sales revenue going directly to them, not to FIO” (SmartWood 2001: 13). However, Niprapar Riancharoen, a village elder at Ban Huay Paak Kok, near Thong Pha Phum, stated that villagers are simply not allowed into the plantation areas (see comments under Criteria 2.3, above).
  • Most of the timber cut in FIO’s Khao Kra Yang plantation is not processed locally. Instead, as reported in SmartWood’s Public Summary, 70 per cent of it is sold to sawmills in Tak province, 300 kilometres away (SmartWood 2001: 14).
    5.5 Forest management operations shall recognize, maintain, and, where appropriate, enhance the value of forest services and resources such as watersheds and fisheries.

SmartWood’s condition 1 states: “By the end of year 1, FIO must verify the presence and location of any Watershed Class 1 areas in the plantation area and ensure that no economic activities are carried out there” (SmartWood 2001: 30). Clearly, at the time of the assessment, FIO and SmartWood did not know whether Watershed class 1 areas occurred in the plantation.

Maria Berlekom, a consultant for SCC Natura’s project with FIO, commented in January 2001,

    “TPP have obtained a map from RFD showing the classifications in the plantation areas. A small portion has been classified as Watershed Class 1- possibly 1B, which means critical areas with some economic activity. It should be noted that TPP was given the permit to establish plantations before the watershed survey in the area was undertaken. The areas further appear to be fairly flat, and the reason for the classification unclear” (Berlekom 2001: 4).[14]

She added that FIO will obtain a similar map for Khao Kra Yang. In the first year audit, SmartWood’s assessors state that this condition has been “closed” although they provide no further information. It is not clear, from SmartWood’s Public Summary, whether FIO will restrict its activities in Watershed Class 1 areas or not.

When asked about condition 1, Surapong Supkai, president of the council of the Tambon Administration Organisation, Huay Kayeng subdistrict, near Thong Pha Phum plantation, said, “They may have come and done it, but they have not informed us. We don’t know whether they have done it or not. We have no idea whether they have done it” (Surapong 2002).

Although technically FIO may have met the terms of the condition, FIO staff have failed to consult with the either the TAO or local people living in the area of the plantation about this condition.


    Forest management shall conserve biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, and, by so doing, maintain the ecological functions and the integrity of the forest.

On Principle 6, SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines for Assessing Forest Management state: “Certification requires that forest managers place attention on the protection or restoration of endangered ecosystems (e.g. wetlands), conservation of threatened/endangered species, and precautionary use of chemicals” (SmartWood 2000a: 9).

    6.1 Assessment of environmental impacts shall be completed – appropriate to the scale, intensity of forest management and the uniqueness of the affected resources – and adequately integrated into management systems. Assessments shall include landscape level considerations as well as the impacts of on-site processing facilities. Environmental impacts shall be assessed prior to commencement of site-disturbing operations.

FIO failed to carry out an environmental impact assessment before commencing logging at either Thong Pha Phum or Khao Kra Yang. Maria Berlekom, a consultant with SCC Natura inspected the Khao Kra Yang plantation in August 2000, shortly before SmartWood’s assessment team looked at the two plantations. Berlekom reported that although FIO had an environmental policy, which “covers all relvant [sic] aspects considered in the FSC P&C . . . so far, no summary and analysis of environmental impacts has been made. Guidelines for low impact management have not been finalised” (Berlekom 2000: 3).

Berlekom recommended that: “A simple summary of anticipated environmental impacts should be made following the topics in the FCS [sic] P&C (basically principle 6)” (Berlekom 2000: 6).

SmartWood’s assessors issued a condition regarding environmental impacts assessments. Condition 15 states:

    “Effective immediately, and during the certification period, site inspection with the purpose of evaluating the environmental impact of planned thinning, harvest, or site preparation activities should happen before commencing the operation. Observations in the form of an instruction note to the person responsible should form the basis for implementing the operation” (SmartWood 2001: 31).

This condition confirms that at the time of the assessment, there was no environmental impact assessment of FIO’s plantation operations at either Thong Pha Phum or Khao Kra Yang. One year later, SmartWood found that condition 15 had still not been met. Instead of withdrawing the certificate, they issued a corrective action request to replace condition 15 (CAR 9-2002, see below).

    6.2 Safeguards shall exist which protect rare, threatened and endangered species and their habitats (e.g., nesting and feeding areas). Conservation zones and protection areas shall be established, appropriate to the scale and intensity of forest management and the uniqueness of the affected resources. Inappropriate hunting, fishing, trapping and collecting shall be controlled.

SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines on Assessing Forest Management clarify what FIO’s management should do in order to achieve compliance with this criterion: “Threatened, rare, or endangered species or ecosystems are explicitly taken into consideration during all operations” (SmartWood 2000a: 10).

According to the Royal Forestry Department’s web-site, the Queen Sirikit Crab (Thaiphusa sirikit) was first “discovered” in 1983 by Surapon Duangkhae, who is now the general secretary of Wildlife Fund Thailand. Local villagers call the crab the “three coloured crab” (RFD no date). The crab is only found in Thong Pha Phum and Triyok and is a protected species because of its limited distribution.

SmartWood issued condition 16 relating to the Queen Sirikit Crab, which states:

    “By the end of year 2, a simple system for protection and monitoring the condition of the Queen Sirikit Crab habitat should be developed and implemented by TPP. Guidelines for eco-tourism activities, as related to the Queen Sirikit Crab, must be elaborated” (SmartWood 2001: 32).

When asked about this condition, Chittiwat Silapat of FIO commented, “They want us to check the numbers of the crab. This is impossible! I think our men in the area might find some ways to solve this problem. I believe so” (Chittiwat 2002). Chittiwat’s comment illustrates that the management of the habitat of the Queen Sirikit Crab is something FIO had simply not considered at the time of the certification. As Virawat Dheeraprasert pointed out, “In Thong Pha Phum, the habitat of the crab, the Queen Sirikit crab, is not demarcated and conserved” (Virawat 2002a).

SmartWood’s first year audit makes no mention of either the Queen Sirikit Crab or FIO’s progress in developing a system for the protection of the crab within FIO’s plantations.

SmartWood’s assessment team issued another condition relating to rare and endangered species at Thong Pha Phum. Condition 17 states: “By the end of year 1, TPP management must develop guidelines for eco-tourism and access to the rare bat cave, which should be done (to the greatest extent possible) together with Thong Pha Phum National Park” (SmartWood 2001: 32).

Maria Berlekom, SCC Natura’s consultant, pointed out in a January 2001 report that the bat cave is not in the plantation area and neither does the access path to the cave go through the plantation (Berlekom 2001: 1). Chittiwat Silapat commented, “in the Thong Pha Phum area there are some rare species. They want us to have something to something to control the access to the bat cave. It is not in our boundary, but they want us to do that” (Chittiwat 2002). He added, “In my opinion I think that some conditions are not relevant simply because they are not in our control. Like cooperation with the villagers, with the forest officers in the area. I ask them [SmartWood], what if they don’t cooperate? We try, but we cannot control them, we cannot order them” (Chittiwat 2002).

After one year, SmartWood reported that condition 17 had not been met. However, instead of revoking the certificate, they issued another corrective action request. CAR 10-2002 states: “Within 6 months, TPP management shall develop guidelines for eco-tourism and access to the rare bat cave, and implementation is taking place” (SmartWood 2002: 38). The corrective action request is almost identical to condition 17, except that it extends the deadline by six months.

SmartWood’s assessors issued another condition relating to FIO’s compliance with FSC’s criterion 6.2. Condition 18 related to Khao Kra Yang only and states:

    “Within one year of certification, initiative should be taken to compile a list of the most important plant and animal species of the area. In the case any rare, threatened, or endangered species are identified, then this should immediately be reflected in the KKY management plan” (SmartWood 2001: 33).

In other words, at the time of the certification, neither FIO nor SmartWood had access to basic data on the plant and animal species in the area of the Khao Kra Yang plantations. It is difficult to see how SmartWood’s assessment team could judge that FIO was in compliance with criteria 6.2 without this information. Yet, SmartWood’s first year audit makes no mention at all of condition 18.

    6.5 Written guidelines shall be prepared and implemented to: control erosion; minimize forest damage during harvesting, road construction, and all other mechanical disturbances; and protect water resources.

One of the environmental impacts of FIO’s plantation management at Khao Kra Yang is soil erosion. Virawat Dheeraprasert pointed out that “Khao Kra Yang has problems with soil erosion, because of the higher elevation and slope as well.” He added, “Monoculture plantations cannot help prevent soil erosion because the undergrowth is always being cleared for establishing plantations” (Virawat 2002a).

SCC Natura’s Maria Berlekom confirmed that soil erosion is a serious problem in some areas of the Khao Kra Yang plantation. She wrote in her August 2000 report:

    “The main environmental problem noticed in the KKY-plantation is soil erosion (10-15 cm soil pillars formed, and gully formation) on the steep slopes in e.g. 2523/2524. The eroded area completely lacks ground cover, most likely basically due to lack of light. Some measures to be prevent soil have be [sic] taken -e.g. to plant thin lines of grass, at intervals of 10-15 metres. These grass lines are not thick enough (yet) to capture run-off, and are furthermore not planted along the contour” (Berlekom 2000: 4).

As a footnote she clarifies: “Intsetd [sic] they follow the alignment of the rows of planted teak, which cut diagonally across the slope” (Berlekom 2000: 4, footnote 2).

Although Berlekom was of the opinion that “the efforts taken in the KKY-plantation, should basically be enough to fulfil the environmental criteria for FSC-certification” (Berlekom 2000: 5), she wrote in her August 2000 report:

    “The KYY-plantation has no major environmental problems, except the erosion noted on the steep slopes. The measures taken to control erosion are not adequate for the following reasons:

    • Main cause of erosion is lack of ground cover (which in turn is most likely caused by lack of light, due to the dense canopy). The easiest and most effective measure for increasing ground cover would be thinning.
    • The grass is not planted along the contour, and run-off may easily be channelled through the gaps between tufts (leading to formation of rills” (Berlekom 2000: 5, emphasis added).

According to this statement, Berlekom considered soil erosion on the steep slopes at Khao Kra Yang to be a “major environmental problem” and that FIO measures to deal with this problem at that time were “not adequate”.

SmartWood’s assessment, which took place less than two months after Berlekom’s report, dismissed any problems regarding soil erosion and announced that FIO was in any case dealing with the problem. SmartWood’s assessors commented on soil erosion at Khao Kra Yang as follows:

    “about 20-30% of KKY’s plantation area is on steep slopes where erosion can be particularly high. KKY is taking steps to mitigate against this by leaving ‘no felling’ buffer-zones and establishing vetiver grass and other ground cover plants to assist in reducing erosion” (SmartWood 2001: 11).

SmartWood issued condition 13 relating to soil erosion in KKY:

    “By the end of year 1, KKY should identify existing & potential erosion areas, revise management prescriptions on such areas so as to exclude these from production forestry – thinning and final felling – at least until they are stablized (by planting of appropriate ground cover)” (SmartWood 2001: 33).

This contradicts Maria Berlekom’s recommendations, which pointed out that ground cover could not grow without thinning to allow more light to the soil on the plantation floor. She also recommended allowing the steep areas to regenerate into “semi-natural forest” rather than cutting them as soon as a ground cover is established (which would not occur anyway in her opinion as not enough light currently reaches the plantation floor).

One year later, SmartWood decided that condition 13 had been “partially met” in their first year audit. As SmartWood’s Public Summary provides no further illumination, it is left to the reader’s imagine how FIO has partially met the condition. Perhaps FIO staff has identified only some of the existing and potential erosion areas, but not others. Perhaps FIO has excluded some areas from production forest, but not others.

In any case, SmartWood replaced condition 13 with CAR 9-2002, which states:

    “Within 6 months, all FIO certified plantations shall implement pre-harvest site inspection with the purpose of evaluating the environmental impacts (to any sensitive areas, eternity trees, river or edge buffers, conservation areas, research areas, high erosion areas, etc.) from planned thinning, harvest, or site preparation operations. Site inspections are to happen before commencing the operation and the results need to be given in written form and explained to operators” (SmartWood 2002: 38).

This confirms that one year into the certification period FIO still had not carried out environmental impact assessments before starting logging operations.

Soonan Nawan, former head of Ban Wang Nam Khieo, a village near Thong Pha Phum, has clear opinions about FIO’s proposed logging. He said,

    “As a citizen of Thailand I don’t agree with the plan to cut this area, because cutting this area which has been grown for many years, will have changes to the forest and to the environment. Even if they plant again they’re going to cut again, so the impacts will continue. There seems to be no benefit for the villagers. There’s no income for the villagers. It seems they are taking advantage of us for their own benefit” (Soonan 2002).
    6.6 Management systems shall promote the development and adoption of environmentally friendly non-chemical methods of pest management and strive to avoid the use of chemical pesticides.

SmartWood’s assessors issued a condition relating to chemical use at Thong Pha Phum. Condition 22 states:

    “By the end of year 1, TPP must develop guidelines for chemical use, which include a policy to reduce chemical application and to implement safe chemical application methods when they are used. As part of the guidelines, develop a program for training, so that FIO foremen will train workers in the proper safety precautions when applying herbicide and fungicide. Also produce a list and supporting documentation of all chemicals used in FIO plantations and nurseries” (SmartWood 2001: 33).

SmartWood’s assessors state in the first year audit that condition 22 has been “partially met”, without providing any further information or attempting to explain what this actually means. According to SCC Natura’s Maria Berlekom, FIO sub-contracts chemical spraying to outside firms, who bring their own workers (Berlekom 2001: 5). If this is the case, it is difficult to see how FIO foremen could train the workers that are actually applying the chemicals. It is also not clear from SmartWood’s Public Summary whether FIO has in fact produced a list of all chemicals used.

SmartWood’s assessors replaced condition 22 with a corrective action request in the first year audit. CAR 12-2002 states: “By the time of the next annual audit, TPP shall implement and document its plan to reduce chemical use and to implement a safety standard for chemical applications” (SmartWood 2002: 38). Once again, instead of insisting that FIO meets the conditions previously issued, SmartWood has issued a corrective action request which extends the deadline for compliance.


    A management plan – appropriate to the scale and intensity of the operations – shall be written, implemented, and kept up to date. The long-term objectives of management, and the means of achieving them, shall be clearly stated.

This principle clearly states that a management plan is an important part of assessing whether a forestry operation meets FSC’s principles and criteria.

    7.1 The management plan and supporting documents shall provide:

    a) Management objectives.
    b) Description of the forest resources to be managed, environmental limitations, land use and ownership status, socio-economic conditions, and a profile of adjacent lands.
    c) Description of silvicultural and/or other management system, based on the ecology of the forest in question and information gathered through resource inventories.
    d) Rationale for rate of annual harvest and species selection.
    e) Provisions for monitoring of forest growth and dynamics.
    f) Environmental safeguards based on environmental assessments.
    g) Plans for the identification and protection of rare, threatened and endangered species.
    h) Maps describing the forest resource base including protected areas, planned management activities and land ownership.
    i) Description and justification of harvesting techniques and equipment to be used.

Unfortunately, FIO does not have a management plan for any of its plantations. SmartWood’s Public Summary observes, “There is no single document called the ‘Management Plan'” (SmartWood 2001: 7). Instead there is something called a “management plan file”. According to SCC Natura’s Tomas Jonsson, “The management plan file is a compilation of documents used for running the plantation operations and registering the outcome” (SCC Natura 2001: 14).

Although FSC’s Principle 7 clearly asks for a management plan, SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines on Assessing Forest Management allow a loophole: “Except in very special cases, absence of a written forest management plan will mean an operation cannot be certified” (SmartWood 2000a: 10, emphasis added). The guidelines list some “very special cases” including that “Significant documentation already exists that meets most, if not all, of the data requirements of a management plan and virtually the only step remaining is to compile and produce an overall management document” (SmartWood 2000a: 11).

Instead of insisting that FIO should compile the information contained in the management file and produce a single management document before a certificate could be issued, SmartWood issued another condition. Condition 23 states:

    “By the end of year 2, FIO plantations shall revise the management file to produce an actual management plan that incorporates a wider range of forest management activities, including not only commercial wood production, but also agroforestry, ecotourism, NTFPs, conservation zone management etc” (SmartWood 2001: 31).

For the next two years, in other words, the plantations will be managed without the benefit of a single document called the management plan.

SmartWood’s assessment team made no mention of condition 23 in their first year audit.

SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines for Assessing Forest Management provide a further loophole against FSC’s criterion 7.1. SmartWood’s guidelines state that,

    “in the SmartWood system, it is crucial to emphasize that field performance matters more than documentation and/or management systems. This does not reduce the need or value of documentation or systems; experience indicates value in them. The question is one of balance between performance, documentation and systems. In SmartWood on-the-ground performance might be regarded as ‘the first among equals'”(SmartWood 2000a: 12).

This presumably provides the SmartWood assessment team with its justification for not insisting on a single document called the management plan, before issuing the certificate. However, this raises serious questions relating to the transparency of FIO’s activities. From the perspective of a forester with full access to FIO’s files, the absence of a single document called the management plan may not be too serious a problem. Particularly if the forester in question is a SmartWood assessor that FIO is trying hard to please. If, however, the person trying to find out the information comes from an NGO or a local community, FIO could easily conceal important information relating to its management plans by not releasing some part of the management plan file.

    7.4 While respecting the confidentiality of information, forest managers shall make publicly available a summary of the primary elements of the management plan, including those listed in Criterion 7.1.

SmartWood’s condition 24 states: “By the end of year 1, FIO plantations should make the main points of the management plan available to a wide range of stakeholders (local administration, adjacent communities, staff and workers)” (SmartWood 2001: 32). This implies that at the time of the certification, FIO was not in compliance with criterion 7.4. SmartWood’s first year audit reveals that one year later, FIO had still not met this condition.

However, instead of withdrawing the certification, SmartWood issued yet another corrective action request. CAR 13-2002 states:

    “By the time of the next annual audit, FIO shall make available for all certified units, a public summary of the management plan detailing relevant policies, plantation maps, logging operation plans, wood sales, etc. This should be made available to key stakeholders and workers both in terms of written documents (i.e., pamphlet or handout) and described a [sic] stakeholders meetings” (SmartWood 2002: 38).

Although FIO failed to meet SmartWood’s condition 24, the status of the certificate has not been affected in any way. The condition has simply been extended for another year through the corrective action request.

SmartWood’s condition 19 also relates to FIO’s management of the two plantations under consideration. Condition 19 states: “By the end of year 1, define a policy detailing identification, selection criteria, and protection of all eternity trees” (SmartWood 2001: 31). SmartWood’s first year audit claims, without giving any evidence, that this condition has been “partially met”. SmartWood does not define what “partially met” means in the context of a policy. Surely FIO had either produced a policy or it had not. If FIO had produced a policy that did not adequately address the condition, then FIO has not conformed to the condition and the certificate should be revoked.

Once again, SmartWood issued a corrective action request. CAR 11-2002 states:

    “By the time of the next annual audit, FIO shall specify protection methods for eternity trees. The following actions shall take place: marking all eternity trees (on the tree itself), mapping the marked trees on the map, systematic monitoring and reporting methods on status and condition of eternity trees” (SmartWood 2002: 38).

The corrective action request is almost identical to the condition, and confirms that FIO failed to meet condition 19 in any meaningful way. SmartWood’s Public Summary gives no further information and the corrective action request appears simply to extend the deadline for FIO to conform to SmartWood’s requirements.


    Monitoring shall be conducted – appropriate to the scale and intensity of forest management – to assess the condition of the forest, yields of forest products, chain of custody, management activities and their social and environmental impacts.

SmartWood issued two conditions based on FIO’s monitoring at the time of the assessment.

Condition 21 states:

    “By the end of year 2, results of monitoring soil erosion, and/or soil compaction from all weather or dry weather logging should be incorporated into FIO plantation management plannning” (SmartWood 2001: 31).

Condition 25 states:

    “By the end of year 2, FIO plantations will develop a monitoring program as part of their overall management planning, particularly to include monitoring environmental conditions of the compartments and such social parameters as source of labor, level of employment, benefits received from agroforestry, NTFPs, eco-tourism, etc. from activities on the FIO land base. An implementation plan, with time frame, would be drafter and implementation commenced” (SmartWood 2001: 32).

Maria Berlekom, a consultant for SCC Natura, pointed out in January 2001 that there is an inconsistency in these two conditions, in that condition 21 asks for the results of soil erosion monitoring to be incorporated into management plans, while condition 25 asks for a monitoring programme to be in place by the end of the second year (Berlekom 2001: 1-2). SmartWood has, however, not clarified the situation. Neither condition is mentioned in the first year audit.

A more important point is that these two conditions indicate that at the time the certificate was awarded, the state of FIO’s monitoring was extremely weak. As mentioned above (see comments under criterion 6.5), soil erosion is of particular concern in some areas of FIO’s Khao Kra Yang plantation. Although SmartWood’s condition 13 related to soil erosion at Khao Kra Yang, SmartWood only requires that adequate monitoring of soil erosion is in place in two years time.

    8.3 Documentation shall be provided by the forest manager to enable monitoring and certifying organisations to trace each forest product from its origin, a process known as the “chain of custody.”

The issue of chain of custody is perhaps the most controversial of the certification of FIO. FSC’s web-site defines chain of custody as follows:

    “Chain of custody is the process by which the source of a timber product is verified. In order for products originating from certified sources to be eligible to carry the FSC Trademark, the timber has to be tracked from the forest through all the steps of the production process until it reaches the end user. Only when this tracking has been independently verified, the product is eligible to carry the FSC logo” (FSC no date).

As mentioned above (see section on FIO’s History: Illegal logging) one of FIO’s roles is to auction illegally logged timber. There are serious concerns that issuing a chain of custody certificate to FIO could serve to increase the amount of illegal logging in Thailand and the amount of illegal timber entering Thailand.

SmartWood’s Public Summary acknowledged that “nearly 70% of KKY’s wood is sold to mills in Tak Province, 300 km from KKY” (SmartWood 2001: 14).

Virawat Dheeraprasert, of FER, expressed his concern that such a large proportion of the timber is sold to sawmills in Tak province. He said,

    “Most of the illegal teak entering Thailand comes from Burma, and most of it comes through Tak. If FIO is using sawmills in Tak province it is very likely that illegal wood will be mixed along with the FIO’s plantation teak. Why should this plantation wood be taken to Tak which is 300 kilometres away from the area?

    “This anyway will only increase the illegal teak trade and logging by adding to the sawmilling capacity in Tak province. FIO already has a past record of illegal teak transport in Ta Song Yang in Tak province. In 2539 [1996] and 2540 [1997], the deputy director of the RFD was caught taking a payoff of 5 million baht in Tak from timber businesses who were doing illegal logging of teak” (Virawat 2002a).

When asked why timber from Khao Kra Yang was sold to sawmills in Tak province, FIO’s Chittiwat Silapat replied, “We sell the timber by bidding. So anyone can buy. So someone who has a sawmill in Tak has the right to transport anywhere” (Chittiwat 2002).

However, FIO’s auctions are not as transparent as appears from Chittiwat’s comments. According to Soonan Nawan, a former head man of Ban Wang Nam Khieo, FIO only started to auction timber from Thong Pha Phum this year. In the past, FIO did not hold auctions but simply informed a small circle of people about the sale of logs. Anyway, Soonan said, “auctions are of no benefit to people who work as labour to plant the trees” (Soonan 2002). According to Somchai Nontasri, a member of the Huay Kayeng subdistrict TAO, FIO does not inform the TAO before auctioning timber from its plantations at Thong Pha Phum (Somchai 2002).

Soonan also questioned the prices FIO obtained from sales of eucalyptus,

    “The cost of planting eucalyptus is a massive sum. But when they do their auction and sell the logs they get sometimes less than half of what they’ve spent on planting the trees. I don’t know how this can happen but then I don’t know who comes to buy the trees. And how this works I really don’t know” (Soonan 2002).

In May 2002, Prapat Panyachatraksa, the Deputy Agriculture Minister, ordered an investigation into FIO officials who helped private firms buy logs at low prices. Prapat told The Nation that an initial probe had found some FIO officials had colluded with private firms when FIO held auctions to sell illegally felled timber. He said, “The fraud has been systematically carried out for a long time, causing the FIO to fail to sell logs at reasonable prices” (The Nation 29 May 2002).

SmartWood’s Public Summary makes no mention of illegal logging or of FIO’s role in laundering illegal timber through its auctions, which effectively makes the timber “legal”. Although SmartWood produced a Chain of Custody report on FIO, this report is confidential.[15]


    Management activities in high conservation value forests shall maintain or enhance the attributes, which define such forests. Decisions regarding high conservation value forests shall always be considered in the context of a precautionary approach.

SmartWood’s Public Summary states: “Neither plantation was deemed to possess High Conservation Value Forests” (SmartWood 2001: 11). This is undoubtedly true, as the plantations are not forests and are extremely unlikely to have high conservation value. However, both Thong Pha Phum and Khao Kra Yang plantations are surrounded by national parks which are high conservation value forests.[16]

Before FIO and the Royal Forestry Department commenced their activities in Khao Kra Yang and Thong Pha Phum, both areas had forest which could have been described as high conservation value forests. Thong Pha Phum is located in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex – one of the largest remaining areas of forest in the country. The Queen Sirikit Crab, a protected species, is found in Thong Pha Phum.

Virawat Dheeraprasert commented, “The Khao Kra Yang area is an important conservation area, both the plantation as well as the forest, because it’s a watershed catchment area of the Wang Tong River.” He added, “FIO’s plantation in effect replaced the existing forest area and so violated Principle 9. Because it replaced the forest it actually violated Principle 9, but SmartWood has ignored that the plantation was formerly a forest area” (Virawat 2002a).

The plantations have had impacts on the forest in both areas, directly (through conversion of forest and swidden to plantation) and indirectly (through forcing villagers to farm in other forest areas).


    Plantations shall be planned and managed in accordance with Principles and Criteria 1 – 9, and Principle 10 and its Criteria. While plantations can provide an array of social and economic benefits, and can contribute to satisfying the world’s needs for forest products, they should complement the management of, reduce pressures on, and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.

A close look at Principle 10 and its criteria indicates that Principle 10 is by far the weakest of FSC’s principles and almost any commercially managed plantation would comply with the principle. World Rainforest Movement produced a detailed critique of Principle 10 in February 2001 (WRM 2001). The following is a critique of principle 10, using the case of FIO as an example.

The language of Principle 10 is different to the other nine principles. All the other principles include the word “shall”, in the sense that the forest management unit being assessed “shall” comply with the principle. For example, principle 1 states: “Forest management shall respect all applicable laws of the country in which they occur” (emphasis added).

In the context of forest certification, principles can be defined as providing an overall goal or objective.

Three years ago, the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) ran a project entitled “Testing Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management”. In one of the reports for this project, CIFOR defined a Principle as follows:

    “A fundamental truth or law as the basis of reasoning or action. Principles in the context of sustainable forest management are seen as providing the primary framework for managing forests in a sustainable fashion. They provide the justification for criteria, indicators and verifiers. Consider that principles embody human wisdom. Wisdom is defined as: a small increment in knowledge created by a person’s (group’s) deductive ability after attaining a sufficient level of understanding of a knowledge area. Wisdom, therefore, depends on knowledge” (Prabhu et al 1999: 86).[17]

It is revealing to look at Principle 10 in the light of this definition. Principle 10 contains neither a “fundamental truth” nor a “law” and it certainly does not “embody human wisdom”. Neither does the Principle provide any justification for the criteria that follow.

Instead, Principle 10 starts by stating that “Plantations shall be planned and managed in accordance with Principles and Criteria 1 – 9, and Principle 10 and its Criteria.” This statement in itself it is not a principle. It could appear in any or all of the Principles. It is simply another way of saying what has already been said in FSC’s introduction to the Principles and Criteria: “major failures in any individual Principles will normally disqualify a candidate from certification” (FSC 2000: 1).

As it continues, Principle 10 becomes more troublesome. The Principle states:

    “While plantations can provide an array of social and economic benefits, and can contribute to satisfying the world’s needs for forest products, they should complement the management of, reduce pressures on, and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.”

This is not a principle or “truth” or “law” against which plantation management can be judged. Given the social and environmental impact of large-scale industrial plantations particularly in the South, it would be difficult to argue that FSC’s Principle 10 “embodies human wisdom”. The “knowledge” on which this statement is based comes from the pulp and paper industry’s propaganda in favour of plantations.

Aside from the basic untruths in FSC’s statement regarding plantations, the language used does not lend itself to precise interpretation. The principle does not state that plantations shall provide an array of social economic benefits, or that they shall contribute to satisfying the world’s needs for forest products. The principle states simply that plantations “can” do such things. This is a highly contentious statement, particular in Thailand where farmers and local communities have long campaigned (against organisations including FIO) for the right not to have monoculture plantations established on their farmland, commons and community forests.[18]

In discussing the “world’s needs” for forest products, the language of FSC’s Principle 10 ignores the question of whether, by providing forest products (mainly timber in the case of plantations) for the “world”, plantation managers are forcing local communities to do without forest products. In the case of the FIO, as discussed below, the purpose of the certification is to increase exports of items such as garden furniture to countries such as Europe, where there is a market for “sustainably harvested timber”. FSC’s Principle 10 ignores questions such as whether Europeans “need” garden furniture more than, say, local communities need medicinal plants, mushrooms, land for swidden cultivation, grazing land for animals, firewood, timber for houses or any of the many other benefits of community managed forests.

It is, in theory at least, possible for FSC’s certifying bodies to make a decision on whether the management of a forest is in accordance with the laws of the country or whether tenure and use rights are clearly defined, documented and legally established (FSC Principles 1 and 2). However, when it comes to determining whether a particular plantation can be said to “complement the management of, reduce pressures on, and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests”, we are entering the realm of fantasy. Particularly in the case of FIO, where the certification is helping the organisation export timber grown in plantations which were planted under the terms of the logging concessions which devastated Thailand’s forests.

    10.1 The management objectives of the plantation, including natural forest conservation and restoration objectives, shall be explicitly stated in the management plan, and clearly demonstrated in the implementation of the plan.

According to SmartWood’s Public Summary, FIO management objectives are “to manage plantations containing a mixture of original (native) species and/or economic (rubber and fast growing exotic species) species while achieving:

  • financial independence (economic viability);
  • environmental sustainability; and
  • employment and economic opportunities for local communities (social sustainability)”
  • (SmartWood 2001: 7).

Virawat Dheeraprasert of FER commented, “Financial independence: Which means that the objective of the certification is quite clear, that it’s not for sustainable forest management it is to provide profits so that FIO can survive. SmartWood cannot ignore the fact that they are actually promoting commercial logging for FIO to make profits” (Virawat 2002a).

SmartWood’s assessment team provided no comment in the Public Summary on these objectives. In fact, FIO’s objectives are simple:

  • Planting trees, either native or exotic;
  • Making money by cutting the trees down and selling them, or from harvesting rubber; and
  • Getting people to work on the plantation.

The term “environmental sustainability” is presumably thrown in there to sound nice, but in the context of FIO’s management of tree plantations it is meaningless.

In its critique of Principle 10, World Rainforest Movement pointed out, “The management objectives of industrial plantations are always explicitly stated: the production of large quantities of timber in the shortest time possible” (WRM 2001). FIO’s management objectives are no exception to this rule.

    10.2 The design and layout of plantations should promote the protection, restoration and conservation of natural forests, and not increase pressures on natural forests. Wildlife corridors, streamside zones and a mosaic of stands of different ages and rotation periods, shall be used in the layout of the plantation, consistent with the scale of the operation. The scale and layout of plantation blocks shall be consistent with the patterns of forest stands found within the natural landscape.

FIO’s plantations were designed and laid out in 1968 at Khao Kra Yang and in 1978 at Thong Pha Phum. Niprapar Riancharoen, a village elder from Ban Huay Paak Kok, near Thong Pha Phum explained that after the plantations were established on their farmlands, villagers were forced to move to other areas of forest. He said, “They were also encroaching on village people’s land and village people had to start moving their farmland away” (Niprapar 2002). Villagers were forced to start clearing fields in forest areas across the river from the village, which they had never previously done because this was their spirit forest.

It fact, rather than “promoting the protection, restoration and conservation of natural forests” FIO’s design and layout of their plantations caused increased pressure on forests in the area.

FIO’s plantations in Thong Pha Phum and Khao Kra Yang are located in forested areas. In both areas, FIO’s plantation blocks stand out dramatically from the surrounding landscape. The rows of monoculture teak trees have little in common with the nearby highly diverse forest, or with villagers’ fields. The scale and layout of plantation blocks is not at all “consistent with the patterns of forest stands found within the natural landscape”.

SmartWood’s Generic Guidelines for Assessing Forest Management explain what FIO should achieve in order to meet this criterion:

    “Reforestation supplements natural regeneration, establishes or protects corridors and buffer zones, fills gaps, and contributes to natural forest restoration and/or conservation.

    “Wherever possible, plantation management mimics the scale and intensity of natural patterns of disturbance in planting and harvest regimes” (SmartWood 2000a: 15-16)

FIO’s management system involves cutting compartments (leaving only a small number of trees) when they reach 30 years old and replanting with teak monoculture. According to SmartWood’s Public Summary, an average of 100 hectares is to be logged annually in each plantation. SmartWood’s assessment team, however, made no attempt in the Public Summary to describe which “natural patterns of disturbance” would clear almost all the trees over an area of 100 hectares each year, followed by replacement with a monoculture of teak seedlings.

    10.3 Diversity in the composition of plantations is preferred, so as to enhance economic, ecological and social stability. Such diversity may include the size and spatial distribution of management units within the landscape, number and genetic composition of species, age classes and structures.

As World Rainforest Movement has pointed out, this criterion is so vague, that it would be almost impossible to manage a plantation without conforming to it. The criterion “could be satisfied merely by planting two species of eucalyptus in a huge industrial plantation rather than just one, and planting two different areas a couple of years apart rather than planting all the trees at once” (WRM 2001). In any case, the criterion states that diversity is “preferred” rather than compulsory.

FER’s Virawat Dheeraprasert commented, “‘Biodiversity in plantations’ cannot be promoted because biodiversity in plantations is much less than in forest areas. It is meaningless to talk of biodiversity in plantations” (Virawat 2002a). Teak, for example, grows naturally in Thailand’s forests in association with a range of other tree species and bamboo species.

However, since FIO’s plantations contain teak, eucalyptus and rubber, they are technically in compliance with this criterion.

    10.4 The selection of species for planting shall be based on their overall suitability for the site and their appropriateness to the management objectives. In order to enhance the conservation of biological diversity, native species are preferred over exotic species in the establishment of plantations and the restoration of degraded ecosystems. Exotic species, which shall be used only when their performance is greater than that of native species, shall be carefully monitored to detect unusual mortality, disease, or insect outbreaks and adverse ecological impacts.

SmartWood issued a condition regarding the use of exotic species. Condition 14 states: “Before the introduction of new, exotic species, TPP must make a policy and procedures for evaluating the impact of exotic species and state provisions for their management” (SmartWood 2001: 32).

In a report dated January 2001, Maria Berlekom, a consultant for SCC Natura, wrote that this condition

    “is apparently made based on the assumption that the plantation might introduce new exotic species in the future. There are no plans to do this, and exotic species like Eucalyptus spp. will instead be gradually replaced with indigenous species such as teak” (Berlekom 2001: 1).

SmartWood’s condition illustrates the inadequacy of FIO’s management files (since there is no management plan). Presumably based on their reading of the files, SmartWood concluded that FIO might introduce new exotic species, while Berlekom reports that “discussions at the plantation and with FIO staff revealed that there are no plans to introduce new exotic species in the plantation” (Berlekom 2001: 3)

Condition 14 also illustrates the weakness of criterion 10.3, which only states that native species are preferred over exotic species. According to SmartWood, FIO just needs to put in place a “policy and procedures for evaluating the impact of exotic species” before it covers Thong Pha Phum in a green desert of eucalyptus monoculture.

In the first year audit, SmartWood’s assessors state that condition 14 is now “closed”, but provide no further details (SmartWood 2002: 37). Whether this means that FIO now has a suitable policy and procedure in place, or whether FIO has assured SmartWood that exotic species will be replaced with teak, is not clear from SmartWood’s Public Summary.

Thong Pha Phum is on the border of the natural distribution of teak in Thailand. SmartWood’s Public Summary does not discuss whether a tree species that does not grow naturally in a particular forest area or area of the country should be considered as an exotic or not.

    10.5 A proportion of the overall forest management area, appropriate to the scale of the plantation and to be determined in regional standards, shall be managed so as to restore the site to a natural forest cover.

This criterion confuses forest with plantation. In both Thong Pha Phum and Khao Kra Yang, FIO manages mainly areas of industrial plantations (which are not forest). In the case of Thailand, there are no regional standards and SmartWood simply used its Generic Guidelines for Assessment of Forest Management (see section on The Certification Process, above).

SmartWood’s guidelines explain what their assessors should have found in FIO’s plantations in order for them to consider that this criterion had been met:

    “Representative samples of existing natural ecosystems are being protected or restored in their natural state, based on the identification of key biological areas and/or consultation with environmental stakeholders, local government and scientific authorities (a 10% target figure is encouraged by not mandatory). . . .
    “Conservation zones are demarcated on maps and in the field.
    “Forest operations carefully controlled in conservation zones” (SmartWood 2000a: 16).

In SmartWood’s Public Summary, the area set aside for conservation zones is not clear. Page four of the summary states that four per cent of the area of Thong Pha Phum is “conservation zones” while on the following page a figure of six per cent is given for “conservation/restoration”[19] (SmartWood 2001: 4-5). Whether the figure is four or six per cent, it is considerably below SmartWood’s 10 per cent target figure.

SmartWood’s Public Summary states that “FIO’s policy is that approximately 5% of each plantation’s area is to be maintained as ‘natural forest cover’ to provide for conservation of biodiversity” (SmartWood 2001: 10). SmartWood’s assessors, however, make no comment on the fact that FIO’s policy recommends conservation zones covering only half the area the “encouraged, but not mandatory” target area in SmartWood’s guidelines. SmartWood’s Public Summary includes no mention of what measures SmartWood took to “encourage” FIO to increase the area of conservation zone at either Thong Pha Phum or Khao Kra Yang.

At Khao Kra Yang, SmartWood reports that “buffer zones” cover 13 per cent of the area, while “conservation/restoration” covers 9 per cent (SmartWood 2001: 5). Writing in August 2001, Maria Berlekom of SCC Natura stated: “These latter areas (buffer zones, stream banks) appear also to have been classified as ‘conservation areas’ – but it is unclear to what extent natural regeneration is planned for, as some harvesting seems to be anticipated” (Berlekom 2000: 3). SmartWood’s condition 20 states: “By the end of year 1, the KKY management plan should clearly state that conservation areas are areas to be left to natural regeneration and not to be harvested” (SmartWood 2001: 33). SmartWood’s first year audit reports that FIO has met condition 20, but provides no further information.

The exact purpose, location and management of these buffer zones was not clear at the time of certification.[20] SmartWood’s Public Summary concludes that “There is considerable opportunity for improved environmental management, particularly in the area of conservation and promotion of bio-diversity in the plantations” (SmartWood 2001: 26).

SmartWood’s condition 23 requires FIO to produce a management plan within two years, which is to include,

    “the exact width of all buffer zones (streams, compartments, and outer boundary) and their desired characteristics/management prescriptions described (e.g. several layers of natural vegetation with a top layer of mature trees, no harvesting). Buffer zones throughout the plantation should be allowed to mature to full tree size without interruption” (SmartWood 2001: 32).

SmartWood’s first year audit makes no mention of condition 23. This condition requires FIO to describe the “desired characteristics/management prescriptions” of buffer zones, which indicates that FIO’s specifications on buffer zones were at best somewhat hazy at the time of the certification. One year after the certificate was awarded, FIO is still not in compliance with criterion 10.5.

    10.6 Measures shall be taken to maintain or improve soil structure, fertility, and biological activity. The techniques and rate of harvesting, road and trail construction and maintenance, and the choice of species shall not result in long-term soil degradation or adverse impacts on water quality, quantity or substantial deviation from stream course drainage patterns.

In its critique of Principle 10, World Rainforest Movement comments, “If this criterion were to be applied consistently, then no large-scale, fast growth, exotic tree plantation could be certified. Yet if applied carelessly, the criterion would allow a great deal of environmentally damaging practice” (WRM 2001).

Unfortunately, SmartWood’s Public Summary appears to indicate that SmartWood’s assessment team applied the criterion carelessly. The word “soil” is mentioned three times:

    “On steep slopes, organic ground covers are established on unstable soils” (SmartWood 2001: 25); and
    “Condition 21: By the end of year 2, results of monitoring soil erosion and/or soil compaction from all-weather or dry weather logging should be incorporated into FIO plantation management planning” (SmartWood 2001: 31 emphasis added).

There is no mention anywhere in SmartWood’s Public Summary of any measures taken by FIO to “maintain or improve soil structure, fertility and biological activity”.

    10.7 Measures shall be taken to prevent and minimize outbreaks of pests, diseases, fire and invasive plant introductions. Integrated pest management shall form an essential part of the management plan, with primary reliance on prevention and biological control methods rather than chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Plantation management should make every effort to move away from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, including their use in nurseries. The use of chemicals is also covered in Criteria 6.6 and 6.7.

SmartWood’s assessment team observed in the Public Summary that, “There was no evidence that encroachment, wild fires, pest attack, or illegal felling have threatened or were likely to threaten the plantations” (SmartWood 2001: 25). However, this is not what is asked for in the criterion. SmartWood makes no mention of whether integrated pest management forms “an essential part” of FIO’s management files.

In its critique of Principle 10, World Rainforest Movement comments, “This clause relies so heavily on vague wording such as ‘minimize’, ‘primary reliance’, and ‘every effort’ that it becomes worthless in practice” (WRM 2001). SmartWood’s assessment team illustrate the problem well. SmartWood issued condition 22 regarding FIO’s use of chemicals at Thong Pha Phum (see criterion 6.6 above). However, there is no mention in the Public Summary of how FIO is attempting to reduce the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers, or conducting research into alternatives. SmartWood’s CAR 12-2002 requests that FIO “shall implement and document its plan to reduce chemical use”, without quantifying what would be a satisfactory reduction. In any case, FIO need only comply by the end of the second year of the certification.

    10.8 Appropriate to the scale and diversity of the operation, monitoring of plantations shall include regular assessment of potential on-site and off-site ecological and social impacts, (e.g. natural regeneration, effects on water resources and soil fertility, and impacts on local welfare and social well-being), in addition to those elements addressed in principles 8, 6 and 4. No species should be planted on a large scale until local trials and/or experience have shown that they are ecologically well-adapted to the site, are not invasive, and do not have significant negative ecological impacts on other ecosystems. Special attention will be paid to social issues of land acquisition for plantations, especially the protection of local rights of ownership, use or access.

SmartWood’s assessors make no mention of this criterion in the Public Summary. As discussed above, at the time of SmartWood’s assessment FIO’s monitoring of its plantations was extremely weak. SmartWood issued two conditions (21 and 25) relating to monitoring (see comments under Principle 8. above). SmartWood concludes that “Considering the environmental and social impacts of plantation activities, the assessors noted that FIO could improve its monitoring, even research and analysis of current practices, in order to be able to assess the results and impacts” (SmartWood 2001: 26).

A strict interpretation of the final sentence would have resulted in FIO failing its assessment against FSC Principles and Criteria. FIO did not pay “special attention” to social issues of land acquisition when it established its plantations more than thirty years ago. Villagers who lost their land or access to forests have to this day not received any compensation from FIO. Only villagers who work in the forest villages have seen any benefits from the plantations.

    10.9 Plantations established in areas converted from natural forests after November 1994 normally shall not qualify for certification. Certification may be allowed in circumstances where sufficient evidence is submitted to the certification body that the manager/owner is not responsible directly or indirectly of such conversion.

Because of the arbitrary cut-off date (November 1994), FIO’s plantations at Thong Pha Phum and Khao Kra Yang are not covered under this criterion.

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[10] At the 1999 FSC General Assembly, NGO members of FSC put forward Motion 25, which stated: “Certificates should only be granted on the basis of actual compliance with all Principles and Criteria at the time of assessment, rather than on the basis of intentions or proposed future actions.” An “overwhelming majority voted against” the motion and the motion was not passed. In other words, FIO has only to promise that it will improve in order to retain its certificate.

[11] This was before FIO complied with the pre-condition on wages, which presumably helped boost the scores for Principle 4.

[12] In this section, the quotations in italics are from FSC Principles and Criteria (FSC 2006). Not all the criteria under each principle are quoted.

[13] The proposed Nam Choan hydropower dam was opposed by a wide range of local groups and an alliance of groups, including academics, NGOs and nature conservation groups in Thailand during the mid-1980s. The campaign was successful and the dam was not built.

[14] Berlekom’s comment, that the plantation was established before the Watershed classification is interesting in that it reveals clearly SCC Natura’s bias. Berlekom writes from FIO’s point of view, and her report makes no mention of villagers who use the same argument: they were using the land before RFD and FIO established their plantations.

[15] When asked about chain of custody, FIO’s Chittiwat Silapat referred to SmartWood’s Chain of Custody report, but when asked which report he was reading, he answered, “Cannot show you any more” (Chittiwat 2002).

[16] SmartWood’s Public Summary states that “The KKY plantation is also located in an area classified as National Park” (SmartWood 2001: 10), implying that the plantation is within the boundary of the National Park. When this was pointed out to him, in August 2002, FIO’s Chittiwat Silapat said, “No! Is that in the report? I have to contact SmartWood to correct this. Thank you for this” (Chittiwat 2002). In May 2003, the version of the Public Summary on SmartWood’s web-site includes the sentence “The KKY plantation is also located in an area classified as National Park.”

[17] To give another example, van Bueren and Blom in a report for Tropenbos, a Netherlands based research institution, defined a principle as follows: “Fundamental law or rule serving as a basis for reasoning and action. Principles have the character of an objective or attitude concerning the function of the forest ecosystem or concerning a relevant aspect of the social system that interacts with the ecosystem. Principles are explicit elements of a goal, e.g. sustainable forest management” (van Bueren and Blom 1997: 26).

[18] In 1999, the World Bank-WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use (which does not “formally recognize any one certification scheme”) listed 10 Principles that the Alliance would promote, and which were based closely on FSC’s 10 Principles. In the World Bank-WWF version, however, the word “shall” does appear. The World Bank-WWF Principle 10, having stated that plantations shall be designed and managed in accordance with the other nine principles, stated: “Such plantations shall complement overall ecosystem health, provide community benefits, and provide a valuable contribution to the world’s need for forest products” (World Bank-WWF 1999). The Alliance’s web-site now lists 11 “Criteria” which indicate “what it considers to be essential elements of a robust certification scheme”. The website states that “Currently the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) shceme is the only global shceme that complies with the established criteria” ( accessed 3 November 2002).

[19] Page 10 of SmartWood’s Public Summary repeats the figure found on page five: “TPP has set aside 6 % of the area as conservation zone” (SmartWood 2001: 10).

[20] SmartWood’s Public Summary of the precondition verification audit carried out in April 2001, states: “FIO staff at KKY made the comment that they felt the SW assessment team made an oversight in the original report, not appreciating the full extent of conservation zones. The audit team was taken to visit a semi-natural forest site. Actually, the issue that the original team had made was not that there was insufficient area in conservation zones, but that the objectives behind such zones was not necessarily clear and not communicated well to the community” (SmartWood 2001: 23).

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