Vientiane Times, 17 Jan 2015
Accurate information and evidence are essential for bringing to justice illegal loggers and wood traders, and forestry authorities are calling on the public to help in this matter. Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Department of Forest Inspection, Mr Paphakone Vongxay, recently called for public support when responding to questions on illegal logging put to the National Assembly through telephone hotline calls.
In one such call, a resident of Vientiane province’s Keo-oudom district spoke about negligence on the part of forest officials in the province. He said they fined illegal loggers and timber transporters but did not hand over the money to the relevant government agency and spent it on themselves instead. In response, Mr Paphakone said it was not possible to verify this claim because there is no permanent forest inspection post in Vientiane province.
He explained the system for fines, saying people who have been fined must pay the money at the provincial Department of Finance on the instruction of a forestry inspection official. Mr Paphakone said this caller and many others may be mistaken in thinking that alleged wood transporters had been let go along with their vehicles and equipment, as they could have already paid the fine.
Another caller from Feuang district in Vientiane province raised concerns about the diminishing value of wood and forests in the district, saying that timber was being clandestinely supplied to traders by local residents using minibuses, for which they received cash in advance. Mr Paphakone admitted that this practice was commonplace, saying traders used various ways to disguise their illegal activities.
Unfortunately, there is a limited number of forest officials and they cannot monitor every square metre. He asked anyone who witnessed suspected illegal activities to report the incident to the relevant officials. Ideally, offenders should be named and their place of residence supplied, as any allegation needed comprehensive evidence to support it, and this information would make it easy to trace lawbreakers.
Mr Paphakone also touched on the illegal transport of wood, including the use of minibuses and public buses for this purpose. He stressed the importance of providing factual and accurate information as supporting evidence in identifying the perpetrators. He suggested people use mobile phones to take pictures or video of illegal activities, as this would be useful in a court of law.