Vietnam police want park officials sacked for allowing logging

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The stumps of three precious sua trees illegally logged at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam in March 2012

Quang Binh police have suggested that the central province administration fire the director and deputy of a national park in the province for failing to prevent the illegal logging of rare trees last year.

Tu Hong Son, the provincial police chief, said at a press briefing on Tuesday that his unit has proposed that Luu Minh Thanh, director of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and his deputy, Nguyen Van Huyen, be removed from their posts.

Son said investigations concluded that their lax management let to the logging of three trees belonging to the protected "sua" (Dalbergia tonkinensis prain) species, Saigon Tiep Thi reported.

He said the two, among an inspection team of 80, had spotted the timber and many tools for logging and trading the timber on April 24.

But they failed to confiscate the equipment or report its presence, therefore allowing the 11 loggers to obtain and sell around 400 kilograms of the precious timber for VND1.3 billion (US$62,400) to a local police officer, who was arrested months later. The loggers shared the rest of more than six tons of the timber among themselves.

More than a hundred locals were hired to carry the timber out of the park, 500 kilograms of which was seized by park rangers, while the remainder created a "complicated" looting situation in the area, Son said.

A commune's deputy police chief reportedly snatched a 42-kg log, which was later stolen from his home, while a park ranger was suspended for accepting a 15-kilogram log worth nearly VND200 million ($9,600) as a bribe from loggers in exchange for letting the latter pass through his station.

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The police chief said there is sufficient evidence to charge Son and Thanh with "irresponsibility causing serious consequences," but local police and prosecutors have decided that dismissals would be enough.

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.

The 11 rangers, including one Party member, who turned themselves in more than two months after the logging late last March, said they could have sold the wood for millions of dollars on the black market.

The case was one among many smaller illegal logging cases reported at the park.

A study released last May by UK-based conservation group Flora and Fauna International said there was no law enforcement at the UNESCO-recognized park, as illegal logging and transport of timber had been observed to be rampant and conducted publicly.

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