Vientiane Times, 24 July 2014
The exportation of logs is undergoing a pilot scheme in an attempt to address the issue of illegal logging in Laos. Despite the government prohibiting the exportation of logs in order to boost domestic supplies to wood processing plants and adding value by processing wood products before exporting them, logs are still seen to be exported with several complaints being made on the issue.
The Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Mr Bounmy Manivong told local media yesterday that a pilot scheme is being launched in Savannakhet and Saravan provinces in an attempt to address the illegal logging issue. “The government wants to inspect and investigate why illegal logging is a continuous problem,” Mr Bounmy said.
Under the scheme, which is set to finish at the end of this month, authorities have been inspecting saw mills and wood processing plants in order to export all the logs. After clearing the logs, authorities will set up documents with business operators to organise a follow-up inspection. Mr Bounmy said if the follow-up inspections uncover more stock, then the operators would be required to explain and verify where the logs came from. “If the logs found in the follow-up inspection are sourced from government permitted places, then it is okay,” he said.
The government allows trees to be cut down in four areas. These areas are where mine projects are being carried out, road and electricity grid construction projects are undertaken and in water catchment areas with planned hydropower dam project constructions as the area will potentially be flooded. However there may be a loophole in this policy as factories may claim that they cut trees from permitted areas when, in fact, they did not. With regard to this, Mr Bounmy said a committee appointed by the government would oversee the logging of wood in these four areas.
Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Forest Inspection Department, Mr Paphakon Vongxay, said there had been cases in the past where some companies who are involved in road construction began cutting trees in an area larger than was necessary for the road. Mr Bounmy said if the pilot scheme proves to be effective, a similar scheme will be carried out in other provinces.
Illegal logging has been a chronic issue dominating debate at the National Assembly, with members of the parliament asking the government to work harder to address the issue. Police reports showed 257 cases involving the illegal trading of timber were discovered in 2013, topping the year’s list of 559 economic-related cases.