Authorities in a Central Highlands province has begun inspecting a
protected forest that locals say has been ravaged by illegal loggers without the intervention of forest rangers.
The Gia Lai Province People's Committee began the investigation Monday after complaints from local people.
Dak Doa District chairman Nguyen Duc Hoang said he would directly inspect the district's protected forest with local rangers.
Thanh Nien reporters found many logs of timber around 0.5 meters in diameter strewn about the forest. Most were newly cut and the resin was still fresh.
Local people said the logging started before the Lunar New Year festival on January 23 but they have seen no sight of local rangers or people from the forest's Management Board.
Nguyen Van Tho, chief manager of the forest, said the board doesn't have enough staff to manage the entire 18,000 hectares of protected forest under his jurisdiction.
Tho also said that the loggers broke in during the holiday season when the forest's managers and rangers were off guard.
Leaders of forest management units around the central region told Thanh Nien that the trafficking of timber from the Central Highlands to northern region has been growing.
In many logging occasions in Vietnam, loggers have easily deterred rangers through violence.
And commissions from the sale of illegal wood have compromised high ranking officials in the forest management system.
A study released last December by Forest Trends, an international non-profit organization, alleged that government officials and forest rangers in Vietnam get a 39 percent cut from illegal logging.
The conclusion was based on researchers' field trips to the "illegal timber road" from the northern province of Hoa Binh to Hanoi.
The report came after an illegal logging case in Nghe An Province made big headlines.
Ten people were killed and five others injured when an illegal timber truck overturned on December 7, only to reveal that six forest rangers were involved, including deputy head of the Pu Huong Reserve, where the wood was logged.
Pu Huong is part of the Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve, which was recognized by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve in 2007.