Forest landscape restoration (FLR) considers forests as integrated social, environmental and economic landscapes, and emphasizes the production of multiple benefits from forests and participatory engagement of stakeholders in FLR planning and implementation. To help inform application of the FLR approach in upland northern Thailand, this study reviews the political and historical context of forest and land management, and the role of smallholders in forest landscape management and restoration in upland northern Thailand. Data were collected through a literature review, interviews with 26 key stakeholders, and three case studies. Overall, Thai policies on socioeconomics, forests, land use, and agriculture are designed to minimize smallholders' impact on natural resources, although more participatory processes for land and forest management (e.g.community forests) have been gaining some traction. To enhance the potential for FLR success, collaboration processes among upland forest stakeholders (government, NGOs, industry, ethnic minority smallholders, lowland smallholders) must be advanced, such as through innovative communication strategies, integration of knowledge systems, and most importantly, by recognizing smallholders as legitimate users of upland forests.