Dept re­sponds to WHC con­cern over il­le­gal log­ging

Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL - APINYA WIPATAYOTIN

Au­thor­i­ties have la­belled the il­le­gal log­ging of pricey agar­wood as an “in­ter­na­tional crime” af­ter the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee (WHC) ex­pressed con­cern over theft of the tim­ber from the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary in Uthai Thani prov­ince.

In or­der to stop the log­ging from spi­ralling out of con­trol, Depart­ment of Na­tional Parks, Wildlife and Plant Con­ser­va­tion spokesman Som­poch Ma­neerat said on Thurs­day that the depart­ment is im­pos­ing mea­sures such as in­clud­ing lo­cal vil­lagers in con­ser­va­tion ef­forts and en­hanc­ing the ca­pac­ity of the for­est pa­trol with help from the mil­i­tary.

The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee, the in­ter­na­tional body that over­seas Unesco’s World Her­itage sites, last month sub­mit­ted a let­ter to the depart­ment af­ter it re­ceived a re­port of a deadly clash be­tween for­est rangers and a group of Viet­namese poach­ers in the area. A for­est ranger was se­ri­ously in­jured while a Viet­namese poacher died in the skir­mish on Sept 5.

Agar­wood is used to pro­duce one of the world’s most sought-af­ter oil fra­grances which is used in tra­di­tional medicines and cos­met­ics, and fetches over 40,000 baht per kilo­gramme. The wood is listed in Cites’ Ap­pendix II, which only al­lows it to be logged by a li­censed op­er­a­tor.

“We have tried our best to limit crimes against our nat­u­ral re­sources. The num­ber of ar­rests, how­ever, is still lim­ited to only one or two cases a year. Now we worry that in­ter­na­tional poach­ers are try­ing to en­ter into the core area of the wildlife sanc­tu­ary,” said Mr Som­poch.

Ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment’s in­for­ma­tion, Viet­namese poach­ers were found in the area two years ago. At that time, three were ar­rested with 600 grammes of agar­wood. In July, 4kg of agar­wood was con­fis­cated and 44 of the trees were il­le­gally cut down the fol­low­ing month. The au­thor­i­ties, how­ever, did not ar­rest any wrong­do­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment’s in­for­ma­tion, the poach­ers have moved to the ad­ja­cent Mae Wong and Klong Lan na­tional parks. These are both ar­eas that the depart­ment is plan­ning to an­nex as part of Unesco’s World Her­itage pro­gramme. In Septem­ber, Viet­namese poach­ers were ar­rested and one was shot and killed by for­est rangers in the Mae Wong Na­tional Park.

Mr Som­poch played down fears that the re­port might prompt the WHC to with­draw its World Her­itage site sta­tus, say­ing that the prob­lem is un­der con­trol. The depart­ment is fo­cused on in­ves­ti­gat­ing to find out who is be­hind the il­le­gal log­ging, he said.

The depart­ment learned from the cul­prits ar­rested in Septem­ber that they had en­tered the coun­try via Nong Khai prov­ince and were taken to Udon Thani, Phit­san­u­lok and Nakhon Sawan provinces re­spec­tively. It was able to con­firm that the per­son who re­served ho­tels for the poach­ing gang was Viet­namese. The depart­ment also sug­gested that Thai peo­ple might have been in­volved in the il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties.

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