Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Illegal logging encroaching onto private lands

Vientiane Times, 26 May 2014

Trees on privately held land have become a target for illegal loggers as the stocks of trees dwindle in natural forests on state owned land. One local businessman named Mr Khamphay Sonsana who had some valuable trees stolen from his forest, spoke to Vientiane Timeson Friday about the current situation of the timber trade and concerns among members of the public.

“I think these type of actions by illegal loggers are widespread throughout the country; they are not just encroaching into my forest,” Mr Khamphay said. Mr Khamphay, who has some forest land near the Huayxone-Huayxua Agriculture Service and Development Centre site in Vientiane’s Naxaithong district said he has observed the persistent traffic of trailers carrying mini-tractors traveling into the forests near his land in recent months.

According to him, any hardwood trees of the rosewood family, especially Pterocarpus Macrocarpus, [Burmese Paduak] are the focus of the wood thieves as Mai Dou is second-ranked after rosewood for its hardness and attractive grain. From his observation, the encroachment into community forests and private forests near many towns is because of the existing foreign-owned wood factories operating under the name of Lao citizens.

Mr Khamphay explained that the foreigners offer cash to local residents for supplying them the raw materials and residents will go to any lengths to get the wood, which is purchased by the kilogram rather than the lineal metre. He said not only the trees standing in the forests are targeted by thieves, they also take fence posts and rice paddy huts and whatever else they can find.

Mr Khamphay said he wondered why no timber was reported seized by the related officials despite the fact the forest protection force is standing by on the path to Huayxone-Huayxua community forest where the tractor traffic is passing by. Encroachment onto private forest land is also a concern for Huayteuy residents in Xaythany district of Vientiane.

Huayteuy village head Mr Keo Sisomphou told Vientiane Time s that the problem of illegal logging is real and there are now no young Pterocarpus Macrocarpus trees left in the community forest. He said he saw the land areas where the trees were taken out but no residents reported the losses to village authorities but rather complained about it amongst themselves.

According to Mr Keo, he has assigned a group of village staff to monitor activities in the forest following the residents’ complaints but no cases of illegal logging were identified. He admitted that some people who were willing to cut their trees on their land have told the authorities before cutting them down.

A Huayteuy villager, who wanted to remain anonymous, said all stems and roots of Mai Dou trees were taken from his land in the village.

He said he observed that the village self-defence force was standing by to monitor at night and wondered why nobody was detained in this regard. According to Xayaboury province Inspection Organisation Head Mr Bounta Inthavong, encroachment onto private lands to steal trees is also spreading throughout the province.

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