Vietnam reluctant officals take action after Thanh Nien exposes major illegal logging

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Illegal logs excavated from the Po Co River in Gia Lai's Ia Grai District

Reluctantly and left with no choice but to act after Thanh Nien reporters dived into the Po Co River and found illegal logs hidden there, authorities in Gia Lai Province's Ia Grai District have salvaged and seized 36 logs.

Several days after informing the authorities and they took no action, the reporters took direct action in front of local officials and park rangers two separate times, diving into the local river, before the former issued orders to have the logs salvaged.

Thanh Nien reporters had on Thursday, June 6, found dozens of logs 2.5-4 meters long on the banks of the river in Tung Village.

Local residents said illegal loggers have carried logs here before taking them away, and that this has been happening for about a year.  

Between 3-6 trucks came to the site every day to carry the logs away. The illegal loggers even hired road rollers to repair a road to the river and dozens of people to load the logs on to the trucks.

When Thanh Nien contacted local authorities to ask about the illegal logging and transportation in the district and requested them to investigate the place, Nguyen Van Cang, deputy head of Ia Grai Forest Protection Agency, claimed there have only been "a few insignificant cases" of illegal logging so far this year.

Nguyen Truong Hai, head of Ia Grai Northern Forest Protection Management Agency, said forest protection has been "fairly good" and that there have been a few cases of deforestation to grow crops that the agency has resolved.

He said there was "absolutely no case" of illegal logging in the district.

Thanh Nien then presented the evidence to the district administration's head,  Huynh Quang Thai, who instructed a team, including Cang, to go to the site.

However, when the team arrived at the site, there was no log on the bank, except for a muddy water section and a floating log.

Thanh Nien reporters then dived into the river and found dozens of logs hidden underneath.

Meanwhile, about 20 illegal loggers came to the site and threatened to attack the reporters.

A man said: "Who the heck are these are good? I will chop the head of the photographer and kill the one who dives to find the logs." He threw dozens of machetes and iron tubes down from his car.

Another man attempted to snatch the camera of the photographer in front of four park rangers.

It was only after the reporters asked for help that Cang and a park rangers intervened.

The reporters then called Phan Trung Tuong, deputy chairman of the Ia Grai People's Committee, who instructed local police to get to the site.

On the morning of June 7, the park rangers had managed to salvage just eight logs from the river.

Thanh Nien reporters decided to dive in again and found more logs in the river.

Cang then said they had not salvaged the remaining logs because the park rangers could not swim.

The next day, Cang's agency announced they'd found 36 logs.

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