Attapeu seizes 9,000 cubic metres of illegal lumber

Attapeu seizes 9,000 cubic metres of illegal lumber

More than 9,000 cubic metres of illegal timber has been seized in southern Attapeu province, Laos since late last year, according to a report by the provincial authorities.

Timber traders have reportedly been attempting to export timber through the province, despite an export ban imposed by the government, according to a report by the provincial Agriculture and Forestry Department.

Provincial authorities have placed greater attention on addressing illegal logging in a move to enforce a Prime Ministerial Order that prohibits the export of unprocessed timber and bans the removal or collection of timber from the forest.

The government has also ordered all forests closed to logging since June1 with action being taken to inspect all businesses that utilise timber in a move to address illegal logging and timber trading – a long-standing issue that has seen Laos lose many billions of kip in potential revenue every year.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, who toured the province last week, instructed the provincial authorities to take thorough action to enforce the government’s latest measures to fight illegal logging.

Noting that a number of measures issued previously were poorly enforced, the PM asked for collective action to realise the latest measures and put an end to the illegal logging and timber trading.

“Local people who have protected the forests for generations have expressed their trauma in seeing many huge trees cut,” he said during the talks with the provincial authorities, which were televised by Lao National Television.

“Our officials, especially the retired officials who have devoted their time to rescuing our nation, said they were moved to tears when seeing trucks loaded with enormous logs emerging from the forest,” Prime Minister Thongloun said.

The PM warned that huge impacts will become inevitable if illegal logging continues, saying farmers will suffer from drought and that the hydropower plants Laos has developed and the many more in the planning stages will have a lack of water to generate power.

He instructed the provincial authorities in charge to carry out regular inspections and take harsh measures to punish those found guilty.

The PM said the Prime Ministerial Order he issued on May 13 stated clearly that unprocessed timber is prohibited from being exported and all parties are prohibited from collecting or removing logs from forests known as Sanam I in a move to close loopholes which allow illegal logging.

Reports showed that illegal loggers and traders have attempted to export quantities of timber while officials in charge are preparing to enforce the measures.

Early this month, 10 trucks loaded with timber – six from southern Champassak and four from southern Xekong province tried to export timber via Saravan province to a neighbouring country. Fortunately, Saravan province officials blocked the export.

On June 2, a bus loaded with timber and 14 Vietnamese workers en route to Vietnam exploded in central Khammuan province killing at least 10 people on board.

There are also growing fear that illegal loggers will seek to legalise timber they cut illegally through domestic channels.

Prime Minister Thongloun warned Attapeu to take action preventing the illegal loggers from removing logs from Sanam I to Sanam II – log collection yards outside forests where they could make the illegally-cut timber legal.

Vientiane Times,  Souksakhone Vaenkeo