10 sawmills closed, 18 others in process: official
Ten sawmills located near and inside forest areas have been closed and removed, while 18 others are in the process of being removed as part of the government's crackdown on sawmill operations and illegal logging.
The closures came after the government recently issued an order to shut down the 28 sawmills located near and inside forest areas, as they violate the relevant law and regulations. The order stipulated a removal deadline of December 2016.
Director General of the Industry and Handicraft Department under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Mr Manolack Rasachak, admitted that officials were unable to complete the removal by the deadline, saying they needed more time.
“Some sawmills are huge and it will take some time to remove them. However, we will continue with the work to complete their dismantling,” he told Vientiane Times yesterday.
“We have already documented the matter with the owners of the sawmills, who have acknowledged the order and agreed to comply.”
Although the sawmills have been ordered to close, some have requested permission to relocate their wood processing plants to places where they are legally allowed to carry out their operations, according to the director.
The requests will be reported to the authorities in charge for their consideration.
In May last year, the government issued a Prime Ministerial Order that imposed tough action to regulate the timber industry and ban the export of unfinished wood products in an attempt to suppress corruption.
Inspection by a taskforce in charge of implementing the order found that 1,154 family-run furniture plants across the country were operating without a licence and would be subject to closure.
Mr Manolack said action to address the illegal operations of these family-run furniture plants would be the next step after officials remove the remaining 18 sawmills.
Initial data reported previously by the taskforce showed that more than 55,421 cubic metres of illegally harvested timber had been impounded. A number of vehicles and equipment used for illegal logging including 11 snigging trucks and more than 1,000 chainsaws were also seized.
Government spokesman Prof. Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher told local media recently the government had ordered the taskforce to summarise the outcome of the implementation of the Prime Ministerial order and report back to the government.
The spokesman said those involved in illegal logging had been investigated and those found guilty would be brought to justice.
By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update February 6, 2017)