Vientiane Times, 6 June 2015
More and more wood is being smuggled across the border from Laos and Cambodia to the southwestern boundary of Vietnam, according to a Vietnamese media report on Thursday. Vietnamese smuggling prevention agencies were quoted in the VietNamNet online newspaper as saying they had discovered many consignments of wood illegally imported from the two countries.
Smuggling has been more prevalent in recent days as the rainy season approaches. Any area along the southwestern border of Vietnam, from Dak Lak to Kien Giang and Kon Tum provinces, could be a “hotspot” for wood smuggling. Kon Tum shares a border with Attapeu province in southern Laos while Dak Lak to Kien Giang provinces share a border with Cambodia.
Vietnamese media stated that if these hotspots are detected, smugglers will relocate their storehouses to other sites. Though many incidences of smuggling have been uncovered, the illegal trade cannot be stopped because of the high profits earned. Meanwhile, Director of the Attapeu Provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Khenthong Sisouvong, told Vientiane Times on Friday that illegal logging remained an issue of great concern in the province. “We have occasionally seized illegal timber but the issue is still ongoing,” he said. “Woodland areas that have road access will have illegal logging. However, we have worked non-stop to tackle the smuggling.”
Officials said Attapeu is located in the deep south of Laos and is rich in natural resources including forests. Nevertheless forests have declined over the past years due to the inflow of foreign investment mainly in the resource sector. Attapeu Provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry reported in September last year that almost 180,000 cubic metres of timber, much of which had been illegally felled, had been removed from the province in the 2013-14 fiscal year. Of the total figure, more than 7,000 cubic metres were confiscated, sparking concerns about widespread illegal logging in the province.
Under the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), Vietnam earlier this year announced that it had stopped licensing the import of Dalbergia cambodiana wood from Thailand and Cambodia as of January 1 this year. As for Dalbergia cambodiana sourced from Laos, CITES Vietnam said it would only allow imports if importers could show documents provided by CITES Laos proving the legal origin of the wood. The tightened control over wood imports has led to a boom in cross-border smuggling, according to the VietNamNet report. In early May, two Vietnamese men were caught carrying a consignment of precious wood worth 250 million dong from Cambodia to Tay Ninh province. According to CITES Vietnam Director Do Quang Tung, Dalbergia cambodiana can be found in four countries – Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The trees will disappear in the future if no measure is taken to stop the overexploitation.