North Thailand boasts a large number of national parks. These are protected areas open for visitors. There are waterfalls and large forested areas that are protected. They are well worth visiting.
A national park in Thailand is defined as an area that contains natural resources of ecological importance or unique beauty, or flora and fauna of special concern. Currently, there are 127 national parks (including 22 marine national parks.
The parks are administrated by the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP), of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE). The department was newly created in 2002 and took over the parks from the Royal Forest Department of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The first protected area was Khao Yai in 1961 when the National Park Act B.E. 2504 was passed. The first marine park was Khao Sam Roi Yot, established in 1966. In 1993 the administration was split into two divisions, one for the terrestrial and one for the Marine National Park Division (MNPD). Controversies include complaints over excessive development and allotment of private concessions. Ko Samet, and other island-based parks are particularly impacted by the activities of private concessions, often in the form of excessive bungalow developments. Many of the northern parks are significantly affected by illegal swidden farming and poaching. There are 33 national parks and three marine parks in the process of creation and are scheduled to be officially gazetted in the future.
Well-known parks in North Thailand are Doi Inthanon National Park, Huay Nam Dang National Park and Chaeson National Park.
The wildlife sanctuary receives most visitors during the summer or the “dry season”. Some sections of the refuge are not open to the public without permission. The Conservation Division in Bangkok and the chief of Huai Kha Khaeng are responsible for granting permission to those who wish to visit prohibited areas.