LAM DONG — Once wary of local authorities and forest guards, loggers in the southern provinces of Lam Dong and Binh Thuan are growing increasingly defiant.
Driving in groups, they bring large trucks to the forests near Di Linh and Bac Binh communes, where they illegally chop down trees and drive away with the valuable wood. Many bring weapons in order to protect their hauls.
Nguyen Van Tap, an official at the Di Linh forest guard station, recalled an incident in which the forest guards caught illegal loggers red-handed and confiscated the wood.
“On the way out of the forest, about a hundred men, among them local thugs, caught up with us and reclaimed the wood. Some even attempted to disarm us,” he said.
Tam Hiep Forestry One Member Company Limited, a company charged with taking care of parts of the forest in Di Linh commune, also experienced hostility, including blackmail and threats, while dealing with illegal loggers.
|Driving in groups, they bring large trucks to the forests near Di Linh and Bac Binh communes, where they illegally chop down trees and drive away with the valuable wood.— Photo danviet
Director Tran Anh Tuan said the police couldn’t be of much help due to the lack of evidence. Some loggers were charged with minor offenses, but this failed to deter them from future provocations.
Forest guards find it particularly difficult to monitor illegal loggers’ movements in the overlapping area between the two provinces. The Lam Dong Forest Guard carried out a dozen campaigns in 2014 and confiscated equipment, vehicles and illegal wood, but loggers simply moved from one province to the other.
The area is under-populated, which further complicates the fight against loggers, as their operations usually go unnoticed. Using terrain to their advantage, loggers exploit tricky mountain paths to enter protected forest areas. Once discovered, they quickly move to alternative paths.
Local authorities have seen some results by setting up checkpoints, forcing loggers to relocate their rendezvous points. Two more checkpoints are to be set up along key routes by the two provinces’ authorities.