Six Vietnamese forest rangers suspended over series of illegal logging cases

By Dac Thanh   April 5, 2018 | 11:14 am GMT+7
Six Vietnamese forest rangers suspended over series of illegal logging cases
A huge tree is found chopped down in a Quang Nam Province's forest in March 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh
They allegedly failed to prevent poachers from felling dozens of centuries-old trees in Quang Nam Province's protection forests.

Authorities in Vietnam's central province of Quang Nam suspended six forest rangers on Wednesday for 15 days for allowing three cases of illegal logging to take place on their watch.

The Forest Protection Department rangers were found to have failed to perform their duties, allowing loggers to fell dozens of trees in protection forests.

The cases were first discovered early last month when authorities in Dong Giang District caught two locals felling trees in Song Kon Forest. Further inspections found that a total of 33 trees, including some endangered species, had been felled for over 72 cubic meters (2,500 cubic feet) of timber.

At the same time, Quang Nam's provincial authorities discovered that poachers had felled 33 rare, centuries-old lim (Erythrophleum fordii) trees in Nam Giang District's Nam Song Bung Forest for over 223 cubic meters of timber.

Nam Giang District police also discovered and arrested six locals for felling five trees in a local forest later last month.

Police have launched criminal investigations into the cases at Song Kon and Nam Song Bung forests.

"If forest rangers have committed violations then they must be punished, and we also need to determine how communal authorities are responsible for letting deforestation occur in these areas," said Le Tri Thanh, vice chairman of Quang Nam.

Last September, Quang Nam also discovered that 124 hectares (306 acres) of protection forest in Tien Lanh Commune, Tien Phuoc District had been cut down for locals to plant acacia trees.

The incident resulted in three communal officials and a forest ranger receiving official warnings, while a Quang Nam forest protection official was fired and another two were reprimanded.

Vietnam lost more than 1.7 million hectares of protection forests between 2004 and 2014, or an average of 23 percent of the national area every year, according to figures released by the agriculture ministry in December 2017.

The country’s forests are disappearing so fast that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered a total ban on clearing natural forests in 2016 to protect the country's last remaining 2.25 million hectares.

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