The Bureau is delighted to announce the accession of Thailand as the Conventions 110th Contracting Party. Thailand joined the Convention as of 13 May 1998 and so the treaty will come into force on 13 September. The new Partys first Wetland of International Importance is "Kuan Ki Sian of the Thale Noi Non-Hunting Area Wetlands" (493.6 hectares).
The Thale Noi Non-Hunting Area wetlands center around the 5km by 6km lake of Thale Noi just north of the very large Thale Luang (Lake Songkla), on the southern peninsula and 22km inland from the Gulf of Thailand. Kuans are islands free of water for most of the year located in the Melaleuca swamp forest, and the nesting area of Kuan Ki Sian is a knoll at 0-2 meters above mean sea level within the Thale Noi area. Its wetlands types are listed as lake, marsh, Melaleuca swamp forest, paddy fields, and swamp grass lands, comprising a wide diversity of freshwater habitats and "one of the few surviving intact freshwater wetland ecosystems in Thailand".
Most of the wetlands area is state-owned and open to public and communal use, whilst the surrounding areas are mainly privately owned. Various parts of the area are presently used for fishing, cattle grazing, and cultivation of rice, rubber, orcharola, and krajoot (Lepironia articulate). Threats to the site include overfishing and encroachment, as well as uncontrolled grazing and nearby irrigation and clearance of the Melaleuca for krajoot cultivation; however, authorities believe that "intensified use of the area has been partly offset by the conservation measures taken". The Thale Noi area is home to 37 villages containing more than 5,000 families, almost all of which rely on some extraction or land use within the area. Mat-making from krajoot grown in the wetlands is a major industry, and tourism is an important resource in some localities over 200,000 foreign and local visitors come to Thale Noi every year, and boat tours operate daily. Future plans include a boardwalk and viewing tower to provide quiet access at the Kuan Ki Sian nesting area.
Kuan Ki Sian of the Thale Noi Non-Hunting Area Wetlands qualifies for the Ramsar List under Criteria 1(b) on respresentativeness, 2(a) and 2(b) on plants and animals, and 3(a) and 3(b) based on waterfowl.