New Governor of Laos' Attapeu Province Pledges to Deliver Justice in Logging Scandal

2017-11-30
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File photo of rampant deforestation in Laos caused by unchecked logging, a severe problem across Southeast Asia.
File photo of rampant deforestation in Laos caused by unchecked logging, a severe problem across Southeast Asia.
AFP

The new governor of southeastern Laos’ Attapeu province has assured the public that he will hold responsible people involved in an illegal logging scheme that led to the seizure of 27 trucks filled with Lao timber and the downfall of his predecessor.

In May, Lao authorities seized a convoy of 27 trucks of logs owned by Seng Viyaketh, wife of then-governor Nam Viyaketh, at the Phoukeua International Border Checkpoint, which regulates crossings into western Vietnam’s Kon Tum province.

Authorities determined that the timber was illegally obtained from Laos, where logging is heavily restricted as a measure to curb widespread deforestation, and where timber exports are prohibited.

Nam and his wife denied any involvement in the incident at the time.

Leth Xaiyaphone, the province’s deputy governor who became governor on Nov. 21, assured Lao citizens that he would pursue the prosecution of those who disregarded state law and a Communist Party directive banning logging in certain areas and exports of timber from Laos.

“I guarantee people that we will seek justice against the perpetrators, who must be held responsible for what they have done,” he said at the time of his appointment.

Three Lao officials from the province’s finance, forestry, and commerce departments are being investigated for their roles in the scheme and have been ordered to stop working, Leth said.

“Now provincial authorities and the Prime Minister’s Office have all agreed to appoint a task force committee to conduct the investigation and collect evidence,” he said.

The Communist Party of Laos removed Nam Viyaketh as governor of Attapeu province for his involvement in the illegal logging incident, mismanagement, and the embezzlement of state funds, official sources told RFA’s Lao Service.

The Politburo issued an order reassigning him to work with the country’s National Social and Scientific Council.

The seized timber has been auctioned in Attapeu province, while its quality was still good, Leth said, but provided no further details about the proceeds.

12 more seized

Another 12 containers of Lao lumber were seized on Nov. 24 in northern Thailand’s Nan province, according to the chief of the provincial government’s cabinet, who did not provide his name.

The timber passed through the Houan-Nam Ngun border checkpoint between Sayaboury province in Laos and Nan province in Thailand, he said.

He said officials believe that the 12 containers were passing through Thailand en route to China, where tropical hardwood is in high demand for furniture and other products.

“The timber for producing furniture was deemed illegal, and customs officers estimated its value at 12 million baht [U.S. $368,000],” he said.

But the value of the timber would have increased to 30 million baht (U.S. $920,000) had it reached China, the official said.

High-ranking officials in Attapeu are regularly involved in illegal logging and cross-border sales, despite a ban on the export of timber issued by Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in May 2016 as part of an effort to end rampant smuggling to China and Vietnam, where the wood is used to make high-end furniture.

Sources have told RFA that provincial officials who take bribes to facilitate the smuggling include those from the departments of commerce, forest, public works and transport, customs and tax, and the provincial cabinet office.

Some 10,000 cubic meters (353,150 cubic feet) of illegally harvested timber seized from smugglers in Attapeu province this year has gone missing, likely the result of local authorities looking the other way or actively selling the wood on the black market.

Most of the illegal timber is obtained through conversion forestry — clearing areas marked for the development of infrastructure projects such as hydropower dams, road building, and mining operations — which is used as an excuse for large-scale logging that otherwise would not be permitted under Lao law.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service and translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh for RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (6)
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Anonymous Reader

Give some dog meat to your friends too.

Dec 11, 2017 01:54 PM

national Lao

No body does waste time to spy on the Lao losers, trash of the old regime. Smart people, independently where they live support directly and indirectly the national reconstruction and the socio-economic development efforts of the their native country.

Dec 11, 2017 09:18 AM

Anonymous Reader

Spies never waste their time because it's their job. Take them back with you S(weet) O(ld) B(oy) from Georgia. Don't forget to tell your father to repair the broken dam and refund the farmers as well. Everything is out of hand huh. The Laos of your dad and family is losing ground and then it will disappear from the face the earth. Remember east Europe Boy.

Dec 11, 2017 10:49 AM

Anonymous Reader

Are you eating dog now?

Dec 11, 2017 10:51 AM

Anonymous Reader

I hope all Lao commies give up the nationalities of the countries they live in and return to Laos. They could open dog meat restaurants.

Dec 11, 2017 01:31 PM

Anonymous Reader

The former Lao might have lost the war but commies dog-eaters like you will soon lose their country. So hurry up eat dogs fast before it's too late.

Dec 11, 2017 01:35 PM

Anonymous Reader

When I see Lao people trying to get away from the muddy river as the dam broke away. This is not a reconstruction. It's a destruction dog-eater.

Dec 11, 2017 01:38 PM

Anonymous Reader

Hey Mr dog-eater you're probably the head of the propaganda office for the Lao commie government huh. Maybe you can hire all the Lao commies in the US when they go back there, I hope the sooner the better.Sweet Old Boy you are the disgrace of the human race. Human excrement is better than you.You stink inside out like your dad and family. You are destroying your own country and you seem to be happy. You're a satisfied idiot.

Dec 11, 2017 01:49 PM

(

From here I can see you eat dog at breakfast, lunch and supper. You have the guts to call people names. Look at yourself every morning when you wake up.

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Dec 11, 2017 02:24 PM

icognito

It is none of the someone else business if Lao nationals return to the country and obtain Lao citizenship. it is a personal right of choice the place of residence.

Dec 06, 2017 01:32 PM

Anonymous Reader

I wish all Lao spies working for Lao regime
returned to Laos. It's none of my business but I wish them all the lucks.

Dec 08, 2017 04:37 PM

Anonymous Reader

It is none of the desperate Lao losers business if someone returns to Laos.

Dec 06, 2017 01:35 AM

Anonymous Reader

You're probably the winner. Good luck to you who have lost dignity.

Dec 08, 2017 04:41 PM

Anonymous Reader

You-you might call youself winner- are winner like the commie winners in east Europe. In the end you will fall like they collapsed in east Europe. You are less than an animal. You've lost your dignity and you're not a human being any more. Don't show much your biceps and your pride Sweet Old Boy. You too you can go back to Laos and take all your family and spies along with you. I really hope you did because someone of your deserve to live in a communist country like Laos. And thus you can spend your whole life eating dog.

Dec 09, 2017 01:16 PM

Anonymous Reader

Mr Sweet Old Boy when did u return to Laos?
Bring all your family and kins with u too and they'd be pleased.

Dec 11, 2017 02:27 AM

Anonymous Reader

In the case of LPDR, I wish you all good luck before you start running out of the country.

Dec 02, 2017 03:54 PM

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