Vietnam authorities mull probe into sua logging case

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Authorities in the northern province of Quang Binh are considering asking police to investigate last month's illegal logging of precious trees in a national park.

Nguyen Van Huyen, deputy director of the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, told Thanh Nien that they have identified several suspects, but they will probably need to ask police to launch investigation and gather more information.

He said they could not estimate how much the loss was, because when they checked the site all the timber from the three sua (Dalbergia tonkinensis prain) trees had already been taken away.

Related agencies are yet to plan any punishment for the forest rangers who let the poaching happen, Huyen said.

On April 24, local authorities assigned a fact-finding delegation to the forest after hundreds of people from communes around the park rushed there, following a rumor that some people had found precious timber worth billions of dong.

A report on Vietnam Cable Television news website last week said forest rangers had found more than 300 pieces from the three felled sua trees, which had been 0.8-1,2 meters wide in diameter and estimated to be worth more than VND300 billion (US$14.4 million).

But, locals, together with the loggers, had managed to move parts of the wood out of the park and the loggers had received VND28 billion from some customers as the first installment, the report said.

It quoted the rangers as saying that they were insufficiently staffed and armed to deal at the same time with the loggers and locals, who also benefited from picking up small pieces of the timber.

The Vietnamese government banned the use of sua (Dalbergia tonkinensis prain) wood for commercial purposes in 2007.

But high demand for the precious wood for decoration and medicinal purposes in China was driving illegal felling and trade in the tree, despite jail terms handed to 35 people 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 a few trees found in India and Africa.

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