Loggers maim five Quang Nam forest rangers

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Four forest rangers from the Central province of Quang Nam remained in critical conditions last week after being assaulted by a team of illicit loggers.

Dinh Van Hong, Nguyen Van Son, Huynh Quang Hung, Bui Trong Thanh and Le Huy Vu had been assigned to patrol portions of National Highway 14B.

During their patrol, the rangers initiated a traffic stop after spotting a bus carrying lumber toward Da Nang.

They signaled twice, attempting to pull the bus over but the driver didn't respond.

The bus finally stopped but when the rangers boarded the vehicle for inspection, the passengers attacked them from behind.

Forest Ranger Thanh guessed that around seven assailants struck them on the heads with iron bars and canes.

The loggers vandalized the rangers' official vehicle before fleeing the scene, abandoning their busload of timber.

Son and Hung collapsed quickly from blood loss. Vu also lost consciousness shortly after one of the assailants stole his firearm.

Hong, who only suffered slight injuries, managed to flee and call for assistance.

Son and Hung were still coughing up blood, on Thursday morning.

Nguyen Ngoc Quang, vice chairman of the province, launched a manhunt for the assailants the night of the attack.

Local police have arrested the owner of the car used by the loggers-the man has been identified only as Hung. The search continues to be underway.

Bold timber poachers have attacked forest wardens in the past, especially in the Central region.

In January 2009, six rangers in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak were attacked and injured (one of them seriously) after attempting to intervene in an illegal logging operation.

Eight months later, a member of the Quang Nam Province Forest Management Agency was killed while pursuing timber poachers on his motorbike.

Forest wardens in the Central Highlands are finding it increasingly difficult to perform their duties, since they are understaffed and the violence has become increasingly prevalent.

The phenomenon attracted even more public attention in December 2009 when the daughter of a forest-ranger chief in the Northern Vietnam sent her father threatening SMS messages pretending to be an illegal logger.

She said she sent the messages to convince him to back off because she was worried that the timber poachers would attack her father if he continued to arrest them.

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