Vietnam launches criminal probe into illegal logging of precious wood

TN News

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Police in Quang Binh Province Wednesday said the illegal logging of three precious sua trees from a national park a month ago will be treated as a criminal case.

Investigations have identified 11 locals responsible for the illegal logging at the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. All of them are in hiding, and there are suspicions that the park rangers were compromised in the theft.

The trees were felled in early April but the park managers only informed the Quang Binh People's Committee a week later when hundreds of locals rushed into the park, hoping they could take some pieces of the logged wood, valued at more than VND300 billion (US$14.4 million) in the market.

Local rangers said they have collected some of the timber, estimated at nearly VND28 billion ($1.4 million) in value.

So far, the locals who rushed to collect the wood were armed with knives, some with guns, and some of the timber was lost, without specific figure revealed.

The park managers said they were weakly staffed and  insufficiently armed to deal with the locals, some of who are believed to be the loggers.

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If convicted for violating forest protection regulations, the loggers and people involved can be fined or awarded jail terms of between two to ten years depending on the level of the crime under the Vietnam Penal Code. 

Vietnam in 2007 banned commercial use of the precious sua wood, also known in Vietnamese as "hue" (Dalbergia tonkinensis prain). But high demand for the wood in China continues to keep the illegal business robust in Vietnam.

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