Nature / WildlifeSecurity

Illegal Timber Trade The Focus Of Economic Police

Some 257 cases involving the illegal trading of timber were discovered in 2013, topping the year’s list of fraud or economic-related cases, according to economic police.

The police officers in charge of economic affairs registered 559 cases in total over the past year, an increase of 311 or 61.22 percent compared to 2012, according to the Security Newspaper, published by the Ministry of Public Security.

The report was presented at the annual meeting of the ministry’s Economic Police Department that took place on February 14.

Of the cases found, illegal trading of wood represented the largest number followed by 134 cases involving fraud over citizens’ assets and 53 cases related to embezzling state and citizens’ assets, among other cases.

Prosecution of 444 cases or 79.42 percent of the total have been successfully concluded, while the remaining cases are being prosecuted, according to the newspaper.

Some 326 offenders involved in the cases were reported as detained, including 58 females. Some 263 offenders including 43 females were successfully prosecuted.

From these cases, the officers were able to collect cash amounting to more than 4.4 billion kip, including substantial amounts of Thai baht and US dollars.

In addition, the officers also seized 20 vehicles, 671,000 cubic metres of processed wood, 4.5 million cubic metres of logs, 15 chain-saws and three motorbikes.

The report, which showed that the illegal trading of wood topped the list of 2013 economic-related cases, highlights the fact that illegal trading and logging continues to be a pressing issue in Laos.

This issue has been reported time after time despite the government’s efforts to address the chronic problem.

At its February monthly meeting last week in Vientiane, the government instructed officials in charge to take greater action to prevent the illegal export of logs.

The latest move came after the report emerged recently that the illegal export of logs continues.

Government spokeswoman Ms Bounpheng Mounphosay told a media conference after the meeting that some government officials were involved in the illegal exports.

She admitted that those officials who breached discipline have not been harshly punished.

Officials warned that illegal logging in Laos is deteriorating the country’s forestry resources, including watersheds and protected areas.

Laos used to have one of the highest percentages of forest coverage in the world. In 1940, 70 percent of Laos was covered with forest, comprising around 17 million hectares.

In 1992, forest coverage had fallen to about 47 percent. By 2002 it had fallen again to 42 percent, and then to 40 percent by 2010.

Source: Vientiane Times