Vientiane Times: December 20, 2017
Eleven lengths of rosewood timber were found loaded on a Toyota Fortuner driven by a police officer in Attapeu province, a provincial source has said.
The wood, which was initially estimated to be worth more than 166 million kip (US$20,000), was found last week when forest inspection officials were making vehicle checks in the province’s Saysettha district.
The private number plate on the SUV was issued in Vientiane, but the driver was a police officer at the Attapeu Police Headquarters, according to the source.
An investigation is now ongoing. Forest inspection officials have compiled a report and submitted it to the Attapeu Police Headquarters.
Local media reported that the driver was the former Deputy Head of the Immigration Police Division at the Phoukeua International Checkpoint in Attapeu, which is the gateway to neighbouring Vietnam.
The driver was preparing to take the rosewood, whose export is illegal, through the checkpoint, according to the media report, which cited a provincial source.
The vehicle was checked after forest inspection officials received a report that an illegal shipment of wood would be crossing the border.
The vehicle was stopped in Xay village in Saysettha district and found to contain 0.67 cubic metres of rosewood.
The case has put Attapeu in the spotlight again after many incidents of illegal logging and trading were reported in the southern province amid the government’s crackdown on the issue.
It was reported last week that provincial authorities had uncovered 180 cubic metres of illegally harvested logs that were buried underground.
The wood was found after authorities carried out an inspection along the Laos-Vietnam border at the 766th and 770th border markers in Attapeu. The inspection is ongoing.
In a separate case, three state officials are facing criminal charges over their alleged involvement in a shipment of illegally harvested wood that was discovered in 27 trucks passing through Attapeu in June.
The trucks, carrying more than 13,000 cubic metres of illicit timber, were stopped by provincial authorities at the Phoukeua International Checkpoint as they prepared to cross into Vietnam.
None of these cases has yet been resolved as provincial authorities said their investigations were not yet complete.
Observers said these cases were testing the degree of law enforcement in Attapeu as the provincial leadership has pledged to hold those involved responsible.
The newly-appointed provincial Governor, Mr Leth Sayaphone, who recently replaced Dr Nam Vinhaketh, told local media recently the law would be strictly enforced against offenders and those found guilty would be punished.