Vietnam park authorities hauled up for illegal logging of rare trees

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Wood from the three precious sua trees illegally logged at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam in March 2012

Party authorities in the northern province of Quang Binh have disciplined two bosses of a national park for dereliction of duty for allowing rare trees to be illegally logged in the park and sold for a fortune.

News website Dan Tri reported that Luu Minh Thanh, director of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, was rebuked while deputy director Nguyen Van Huyen was dismissed from the committees of the Bo Trach District and the park Party units.

Local government agencies are considering further punishment, the newspaper quoted the province Party committee as saying.

Some locals entered the park in April last year and logged three sua trees (Dalbergia tonkinensis), and Thanh failed to handle the case properly and quickly after it was detected, causing an outcry that affected public security. 

Huyen had led an inspection team into the park on April 24 and spotted the timber estimated to be worth nearly VND100 billion (US$4.75 million) as well as the tools used for logging them.

But he did not do anything about the discovery, instead ordering the team to withdraw.

This allowed the illegal loggers to carry the wood out of the forest where they were confronted by others seeking to steal the loot, causing security issues in the area.

The logging was allegedly done by 12 people who are currently being questioned.

It also raised the suspicion that forest rangers and loggers had colluded to cut down the rare trees, Dan Tri said.


Asked why no criminal charges were filed against the officials, Pham Hong Tam, chief of the Quang Binh People's Procuracy the prosecutor's office -- told Vietnam News Agency that since the media and public stir had died out, they did not want to "dig" deeper since more skeletons could tumble out of the closet.

Tam has approved a decision to release five people, including Nguyen Van Hieu, a former police officer in Bo Trach District, from police custody who are awaiting trial.

They face charges of stealing the sua wood from the loggers when they were carrying it out of the forest

A study released last May by UK-based conservation group Flora and Fauna International said law enforcement was absent at the UNESCO-recognized park, with illegal logging and transport of timber being rampant and done openly.

Vietnam banned the commercial use of sua wood, found mostly in Vietnam and China, in 2007.

But huge demand for the wood for decorative and medicinal purposes in China sustains the illegal logging and trade.

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