Logging Continues in Laos as Provinces Ignore Export Ban

2016-12-07
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A Vietnamese truck loads timber from a forest in southern Laos in an undated photo.
A Vietnamese truck loads timber from a forest in southern Laos in an undated photo.
(Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.)

Timber seized by authorities in Laos after being harvested illegally is being offered for sale in state-run auctions, but discrepancies remain in the number of logs being sold and the number of trees cut down, sources say.

In an order issued in May, Lao prime minister Thongloun Sisoulith banned the export of timber in a bid to end the rampant smuggling of logs to neighbors such as China and Vietnam, where the wood is used to make high-end furniture.

Deforestation has been a major problem in the last two decades for Laos, whose forests now cover less than 40 percent of the country’s land, according to the Lao Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Smuggling continues in the Southeast Asian nation’s central and southern provinces, though, because provincial governors profit from the trade, a civil society organization (CSO) official working in Champassak province told RFA’s Laos service.

“The governors of these provinces take the opportunity to enrich themselves by running sawmills and timber businesses in cooperation with Vietnamese investors,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“I have seen in Bolikhamxay, Khammouane, Savannakhet, and Champassak that these provinces don’t reveal the numbers of logs that have been seized,” he said, adding, “This means that something is being hidden under the carpet.”

“Governors have helped investors hide the confiscated timber ever since the national government began taking measures to stop the logging, and the number of seized logs never matches the number of trees cut down,” he said.

Border easily crossed


Smugglers still move logs from Sekong province to Vietnam by truck each day “because the province borders Vietnam, and the trucks can easily cross the border without passing through major checkpoints,” a resident of the province told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The logging is protected by the governors,” he added.

Speaking separately, a resident of Paksong district in Champassak said he often sees timber left for pick-up near the sites of dams being built in Paksong.

“Those logs are waiting to be exported, and no officials come to confiscate them,” he said.

Reached for comment, Thongphanh Lattanalungsy—deputy director of the forest inspection department of Laos’ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry—declined to speak to an RFA reporter.

Calls to Khenthong Sisouvong, deputy governor of Attapeu province in southeastern Laos, meanwhile rang unanswered.

Reported and translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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GARY

Its really not to believe that nobody is able to stop it! Nobody wants to stop it! Give a jerck some power and he will use it for their personal richness by crime! Thats Laos!
It is crime to steal Lao people its environment. They live poor without income in the countryside by hunting and fishing to survive!
Look all these street construction companies in Laos. All of the owners have a villa big like millions of dollars worth. But the streets they should built are a mess!
Shame on all these arrogant and ignorant cheater!
Nobody of them will go to buddha's heaven-all strait away to hell!

Dec 13, 2016 03:39 AM

Nkajlo Vangh

As I have mentioned once before in this forum, any ban can be urdered in Lao PDR, but it does NOT work. Why? Too many officials and Party members are above the laws, decrees, or bans like this one.The only tool to get rid of such ineffective government is to REFORM it through Freedom and Democracy by the people for the people!

Dec 08, 2016 10:30 AM

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