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

Cross border timber smuggling reported in Xieng Khuang

Vientiane Times, 20 August 2014

Vietnamese nationals have been felling trees illegally in Lao territory, with clandestine logging reportedly taking place in Xieng Khuang province which shares a border with Vietnam’s Nghe An province. Lao government officials reported that the Vietnamese have used slings to transfer the logs they cut in remote Lao forest areas back to Vietnam, said Deputy Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Mr Thongphanh Ratanalangsy.

He spoke to local media at a press conference held recently at the National Assembly (NA) in response to an issue raised through the hotline of the NA’s ordinary session. A resident of Mok district of the northern Lao province called for, via the hotline, relevant officials to inspect the logging situation in the district after suspicions were raised that illegal logging was taking place in the area. Following the call, officials from the ministry and the provincial office inspected the situation.

The Vietnamese have found it easy to carry out illegal logging and transfer the logs they cut in Laos to Vietnam as concrete roads along the border on the Vietnamese side have already been constructed, Mr Thongphanh said. On the other hand, Lao forest officials have encountered difficulties in carrying out regular missions to safeguard the forests due to poor road conditions. Worse still, some remote forest areas are not accessible. “We still can’t assess the illegal logging situation in some forest areas along the border where our forest officials are unable to access,” he told the conference, citing a report from forest officials who are stationed along the border areas.

Logs cut previously by both Lao and Vietnamese nationals, which have not been transferred, have been found in forest.  However, forest officials reported that they have not seen the illegal logging movement by the Vietnamese recently, noting that it might be due to the fact that the current rainy season makes it difficult for the wrongdoers to undertake logging. In addition, Mr Thongphanh noted that ongoing efforts by both Lao and Vietnamese authorities, especially of the two provinces, might have resulted in a cessation of the illegal movements. However, the Deputy Director General said the ministry will propose that the Lao government work together with its Vietnamese counterparts, especially the authorities of the two provinces, to address the issue in the long run.

During the inspection, the Lao forest officials also discovered more than 4,732 cubic metres of logs amounting to over 45.6 billion kip (more than US$5.6 million) that had been cut down in the province without permission from authorities. The illegal logs [the 4,732 cubic metres] were cut by three timber companies, who had received a quota from the government to cut logs, however they had all exceeded the approved quota. According to relevant laws, the three companies will be fined double the amount of the loss. This means the companies will be fined 91.2 billion kip. The wrongdoers are also subject to face imprisonment of between three months to five years.

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