BÌNH ĐỊNH — In early August, locals in a mountainous area of the south-central province of Bình Định called rangers to report something odd: a large group of strangers cutting down trees in a nearby natural forest.
By the time authorities arrived, they discovered 43.7 ha of natural forest had been completely wiped out, and large swaths already replaced by acacia, a tree commonly grown on industrial plantations. But the culprits remained unknown.
On September 9, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc ordered an investigation into the serious deforestation in Bình Định’s An Hưng Commune and demanded results before October 30.
Now, the investigation has made a breakthrough.
Bình Định authorities on Thursday discovered a large amount of wood at a woodchip factory operated by Thương Thảo Trading JSC, based in Quy Nhơn City. The wood was suspected to have originated from the devastated forest.
The company’s business activities range from construction and hotel management to wood manufacturing and forest plantation for economic exploitation.
The wood-chip factory is located in Tường Sơn Village, 10km from the site of the devastated forest.
Authorities said their initial investigation suggested the perpetrator of the forest devastation might be a private business with the financial means to employ many people working with machines to fell trees in the natural forest quickly.
Suspicion surrounding Thương Thảo became more justified when it was reported that near the destroyed forest was a two to three-year-old acacia forest (30ha) belonging to the company.
Bình Định authorities also confirmed that no one had been licensed to plant forest “with commercial purposes” in that area.
According to the Vietnam News Agency, the piles of wood in the factory contained different tree parts, from logs to trunks and branches. An estimation of the total weight of the wood found has not been established.
A 2013 decree on handling violations of forest protection regulations stipulates that criminal laws apply to the offence of destroying over 2,000 sq.m of protected forest, or 3,000 sq.m of commercial forest.