Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park in the central province of Quảng Bình said yesterday it was co-operating with related agencies to investigate an alleged attack on forest rangers by a group of loggers.
According to a report by the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park Forest Ranger Unit, at around 3pm on Wednesday, September 21, 2016, Mobile Ranger Team No 2 and forces of the Hóa Sơn Ranger Station detected a suspicious 16-seater van travelling from Hóa Sơn Commune, Minh Hóa District to Hồ Chí Minh National Highway.
During a search, they found that the van, driven by Đinh Minh Tưởng, was transporting 20 boxes of wood, which was some 1.5cu.m.
Failing to prove the legality of the wood, Tưởng, a resident of Hóa Sơn Commune, and some people who had accompanied the van on motorbikes reportedly threatened to throw rocks on the rangers’ car. They then used a sword and an iron tube to attack the rangers, leaving Dương Quyết Thắng, deputy head of the Mobile Ranger Team, injured.
Another person drove the 16-seater van into the rangers’ car, following which the van plunged into a field on the side of the road.
The group of 15-20 people continued to attack the rangers and used motorbikes and another car in which they transferred the wood. They also managed to push the van back up to the road and escape.
The rangers could only seize four boxes of wood, which were brought to the Hóa Sơn Ranger Station.
Illegal logging is rampant across forest and mountainous areas in Việt Nam, with loggers becoming increasingly violent in recent times.
In August, an official was killed and two others were injured after being attacked by illegal loggers in the Central Highlands province of Lâm Đồng.
Early this month, a group of loggers, also in Lâm Đồng, was prosecuted for assaulting rangers with weapons in July.
According to estimates of Đắk Lắk Province’s Forest Ranger Unit, there were 14 cases in which illegal loggers fought against rangers and forest protection forces since the beginning of 2015 to July 2016 in the province alone.
From July 2016
Illegal Loggers Nabbed in Vietnam
The men were smuggling timbers in the river basin of the Dong Nai 5 Hydroelectric Plant located in Bao Lam District of the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, when they were ambushed by a special police team.
The officers were from the environmental police unit (C49B) of the Ministry of Public Security. The river basin is close to Dak Nong Province and the Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai Province.
After many months of planning and following the leaders, C49B officers decided to target this illegal logging group. Because of the dangerous terrain surrounding the Dong Nai 5 Hydroelectric Plant, the team had to be extremely careful in order to reach the suspects without being noticed.
This group of illegal loggers is very professional and at times dangerous. When seeing suspicious strangers, they would release the illegal timbers to the river and run away. They would also notify other wood smugglers by phone to stop chopping. In the worst case, they would fight back and attack the officers.
The team of 30 police officers had to stay ambushed inside an eight-ton cargo truck travelling from Ho Chi Minh City to the area in order to evade the log smugglers’ detection.
Knowing that the guards of the smuggling group were watching the 2016 Euro semi-final soccer match between France and Germany, the police suddenly came out from the truck and quickly arrested the suspects. Some of the smugglers swam out to the river. However, there were other officers waiting on the other side of the river.
The suspects confessed that they had successfully smuggled thousands of cubic meters of logs for the last two years.
Their operational activity is very professional. Some people are in charge of cutting down the trees in the forest reserve by the Dong Nai River. Another group is responsible for logging the woods and releasing them onto the river. There is also a group that stations at the river basin to collect the logs. There are always trucks at the river basin ready to transport the illegal products out.
According to the illegal loggers, they normally transport 20-30 cubic meters of woods every day. If they have time, they will trim the woods to proper shapes and sizes to make them look like those approved by the government, hoping to fool the forest rangers.
After further checking the storage site of the smugglers in the river basin, officers found various rare timbers, along with automatic saws, machetes, swords, and knives, which could be used to fight against rangers.
Officers also asked the smugglers to bring them to the places where the trees were cut down, where a large area had been deforested. Many century-old trees were mercilessly chopped down. Some were still exuding gum, indicating they had just been cut very recently.
According to C49B, the illegal logging and smuggling have been carried out for two years even though there are many rangers’ stations nearby.
The deforested area is next to provinces including Lam Dong, Dak Nong, and the Cat Tien National Park of Dong Nai, yet such illegal activities somehow have escaped the authority for years.
Nearly half of Vietnam’s land area is covered by forests. The country’s total forest area has increased over the past two decades. The majority of this growth is the result of the expansion of large-scale timber plantations, which account for a quarter of all forest cover (FAO, 2015).
The country has a key role in the timber processing sector in south-east Asia. Vietnam imports timber from many countries in the region, including Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand, and exports mainly to the EU, the US and Japan (EFI).
Vietnam entered into formal negotiations for a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the EU in November 2010, and these are still underway. This process has prompted a review of relevant legislation and improved the government’s engagement with civil society. Vietnam has also been engaged in REDD+, and tackling illegal logging has been identified as part of the country’s REDD+ strategy (EFI). However, the available evidence indicates that illegal logging and the trade in illegal timber remains a serious problem.
Tags: assaulting rangers, C49B, Central Highlands, Hóa Sơn Commune, illegal loggers, loggers becoming increasingly violent, Minh Hóa District to Hồ Chí Minh National Highway, Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park Forest Ranger Unit, smugglers, Đắk Lắk Province’s Forest Ranger Unit