Police in Lam Dong Province have arrested five men accused of destroying a pine forest in an attempt to take over the land for coffee farming near the resort town of Da Lat.
Vu Van Thanh, 44, a park ranger of An Nguyen Forestry Company in the Central Highlands province, hired the other four suspects to clear 2.6 hectares (6.4 acres) of forest, police said.
At the police station, Thanh said he had worked for the company since 2012. Last April, he hired Vu Tuan Chung – one of the arrestees – to kill the trees with chemicals.
Chung was paid VND5 million (US$230) and then hired three others to do the job.
Together they have managed to clear 2.6 hectares of pine forest.
Thanh also hired an unidentified man to dig 3,000 holes for planting coffee trees and promised to pay him VND30 million.
Earlier, local police had bust three similar cases of illegal deforestation and arrested five people.
A local official was quoted by Tuoi Tre as saying that deforestation has increased drastically in the province due to the negligence of some park rangers.
Chemicals can kill trees quickly and discretely within three weeks, he added.
Lam Dong Forest Protection Agency reported more than 500 cases of illegal deforestation so far this year, of which 22 cases have been criminally investigated.
More than 160 hectares of forest, mostly of pine trees, have been destroyed since June 2014.