Despite considerable field-based innovation and academic scrutiny, the nexus between conservation approaches, local support for parks and park effectiveness remains quite puzzling. Common approaches to understanding notions of environmental justice are to understand distributional and procedural issues, representation in decision making, and recognition of authorities and claims. We took a different approach and analysed environmental justice claims through institutional, ideational and psychological lenses. We sought to understand how the national park could have such broad support from local communities despite their acknowledgement that it severely curtailed their livelihoods. We conducted 100 household interviews in three villages that border Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area. Our study found that villagers 1) hold on to broken promises by the State for agricultural activities and alternative revenues without fully changing forest use behaviours; 2) were influenced heavily by the ‘educational’ programmes by the State; 3) accepted the authority of the State and lack of participation in decision-making based on historical experiences and values; 4) justified their burdens by over-emphasising the positive aspects of the park. Our findings present a complementary framework to explain environmental justice claims, allowing for a nuanced analysis of how people respond to justices and injustices, and specifically how injustices can be identified through proven social science concepts.