As much as 40 cubic meters of luxury wood was seized Tuesday in Ratanakkiri province’s Bokeo district, the fourth such confiscation this month in the province that resulted from information provided by community members and human rights groups, officials said yesterday.
So far, more than 240 cubic meters of logged luxury timber-including Kra Nhuung, Neang Nuon and Thnong woods-was confiscated in four locations in Banlung city and the districts of Kon Mom, O’Yadaw and Bokeo, according to Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc.
Authorities are not always helpful when fighting illegal logging, he said.
“Local police and Forestry Administration officials have met difficulties in combating and preventing illegal logging and cross-border smuggling of these expensive woods,” he said. “They complain frequently that whenever they report the illegal logging to their superiors, there are no measures taken.”
“Very often, there is intervention from senior officials at the national level to let the smuggling run smoothly whenever the smuggling is stopped by police or forestry administration officials,” Mr Bonnar said.
Ray Rai, provincial police chief, dismissed Mr Bonnar’s claims.
“There are no senior or powerful officials [in my jurisdiction] committing deforestation and smuggling expensive woods,” he claimed.
On Tuesday, police only seized 28 cubic meters of Neang Nuon and Thnong woods, said Mr Rai, as opposed to the more than 40 cubic meters reported by Mr Bonnar.
The provincial police have cooperated with other agencies and court prosecutors in more than 10 illegal timber confiscations since December, he said, with about 100 cubic meters of wood seized.
“We believe that we will be able to crack down and confiscate more illegal logs this week or next week,” Mr Rai said. “Because we believe there are more cut logs being hidden in the jungle.”
Local villagers cut logs for smuggling in small amounts, he added.
“Each family sometimes owns two or three pieces of luxury wood, so it is a lot of cubic meters when 20 families keep their logs together,” he said.