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Investigation ongoing into 27 trucks carrying illegal timber: Attapeu governor

A taskforce committee is stepping up investigations into those involved with illegal timber found on 27 trucks at the Phoukeua international checkpoint in Attapeu province in June, the provincial governor has said.

Dr Nam Vinhaketh told Vientiane Times yesterday it would take some time for the committee, which was appointed to carry out the investigation, to complete their job.

The governor could not give a precise date as to when the investigation would be concluded.

“I haven't set a timeframe for the committee for their investigation. They should be given some time,” he said.

When timber was removed from the trucks, undeclared timber was found loaded together with declared wooden products, which were eligible for export.

“That undeclared timber has been seized for investigation. But the declared products will be allowed for export,” he said.

Dr Nam told local media early last month the trucks were controlled by the Kham Lattanaphone Crafting Company, which is owned by Mr Kham Lattanaphone. The company manufactures wooden furniture and craft products for export.

Initial investigations found that the 27 trucks, which were carrying the products bound for export through the checkpoint, were hired by the company to transport the goods.

Dr Nam pledged to carry out thorough investigations into the case and hold those involved responsible under the relevant laws and regulations.

The governor said the seizure of the timber was just one among many occurrences, saying such illegal practices by businesses seeking to avoid legal export channels to increase their gains were happening repeatedly.

But the case involving such a large volume of contraband timber has shone a spotlight on the issue in recent months after the government's crackdown on illegal logging and trade.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith issued Order No. 15 in May last year, which imposed measures to strictly regulate log movements, timber businesses, and prohibit the export of unfinished wood products in an attempt to address chronic illegal logging and add value to Lao-made products.

As a result, 28 sawmills located near and inside forest areas, including conservation forest, that were operating illegally were ordered to shut down. Some 1,154 family-run furniture plants across the country operating without business licences were also instructed to cease operations.

As part of the crackdown, as of May 18, 2017, more than 59,160 cubic metres of wood and another more than 113 tonnes of timber had been seized, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

 

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update September 6, 2017)


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