11 suspects identified in Vietnam national park logging

TN News

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Authorities in Vietnam's northern province of Quang Binh Wednesday announced the names of 11 suspects who allegedly logged precious timber worth hundreds of billions of dong.

Newswire Dan Tri quoted Nguyen Van Hai, deputy chief of the Phuc Trach Commune police, as saying that some of the suspects had returned home to sell the wood they obtained from three sua (Dalbergia tonkinensis prain) trees they felled in the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park last month.

But it has been difficult to find them since they are in hiding, he said, adding that the others have probably left their homes or are still hiding in forests, waiting for a good time to sell the wood.

Ten of the suspects are from Phuc Trach Commune, while the other is from Xuan Trach, both close to the park in Bo Trach District.

On Monday forest rangers had found 336 kilograms of sua wood, Vietnam News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, many people living in the park's vicinity are hunting for leftover timber, though the numbers have thinned since April end when hundreds flocked to the park to check out a rumor that some locals had found three sua trees worth hundreds of billions of dong, Hai said.

Authorities have yet to assess the value of the lost timber.

But a report on the Vietnam Cable Television website last month said the trees were 0.8-1.2 m across and worth more than VND300 billion (US$14.4 million). 

The loggers had received VND28 billion from some customers as a first installment, it said.

It quoted the rangers as saying they were insufficiently staffed and armed to deal with such cases.

The Vietnamese government banned the use of sua wood for commercial purposes in 2007.

But high demand for the wood for decorative and medicinal purposes in China continues to drive the illegal logging of and trade in the tree even after 35 people were jailed in Hanoi last April.

Sua furniture is highly favored in China, and demand has increased in recent years among the nouveau riche.

The timber is found mostly in Vietnam and China, with India and Africa also having some trees.

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