Who had connived with the lumberjacks to transport the century old Sua trees from the forest to the road?
|Stump of the cut Sua tree (Photo:Dantri)|
Nguyen Van Huyen, deputy director of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, told reporters that he and other forest wardens were shocked when they saw the empty ground left by the cut Sua trees. Lumberjacks had taken away the trunks of the three Sua trees, and left behind branches and foliage.
Nguyen Van Hien, party secretary of the Phuc Trach Commune in Quang Binh Province said that the ringleader of the lumberjacks was suspected to be Hanh, who had wandered in the forest and discovered the Sua trees. He then took pictures of the trees and showed them to timber smugglers. After bargaining a price with them of hundreds of billion Vietnam dongs, Hanh hired another lumberjack named Sau to carry out the business.
The trees were cut down and the lumberjacks received their payment. As they did not have enough time to count the money, having received 500,000 bank notes, they piled up the amount in bundles and weighed the bundles of money!!
Thus, local leaders believe that the Sua trees were sold off for almost VND1,000 billion! If the trees had been transferred to Dong Hoi town in Quang Binh Province, the price could have been as high as VND2,000 billion.
Working for such high profits, the lumberjacks and timber smugglers were protected by an army of 20 gunmen, equipped with rifles, mines and grenades from Ha Tinh Province and Dong Hoi town.
People believe that the three Sua trees had been cut into blocks and hidden in the jungle, waiting for a convenient time to be transported to the national route.
As authorities intensified patrolling of roads near the park to block all exits of the lumberjacks from taking out timber from the forest, it is said that the criminals spent VND30 billion for bribing the traffic police, forest wardens, so that those responsible would turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the trucks carrying out the Sua wood from the forest.
A report issued by the People’s Committee of Quang Binh Province on May 1 aimed at discussing ways to prevent destruction of trees in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park as it was noticed that at present, there were so many people in the forest illegally exploiting forest products, that it is impossible to find the criminals. The reality is that the local people are cooperating with lumberjacks or becoming lumberjacks themselves.
Since April 17, there have been contingents of locals who have illegally intruded into the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to cut and steal the precious and rare Sua trees.
The chairman of the People’s Committee of Quang Binh said that when too many people enter the forest; authorities must mobilize extra personnel on the grounds in order to rapidly deploy forces to overpower the lumberjacks.
The People’s Committee had set up professional teams who would be responsible for control and prevention of illicit activities of lumberjacks but due to lack of personnel and weapons the effectiveness of those teams was limited.
However, the forests now seem under the control of criminals. Reporters disguised as villagers walked deep into the forest in Vuc Tro Commune and saw many people come in and out of the forest. The reporters were even stopped and searched by the gangsters and only released when the gangsters thought they were “real” villagers from other provinces who had also come to ransack the forests for money!!
It was reported that on the night of April 29, 100 lumberjacks overpowered the forest rangers who wanted to prevent them from taking out timber from the forest. In another clash with the criminals, the police found that they ran away and left behind 18 AK machine gun bullets. That proves that the lumberjacks were fully armed.
Authorities are considering options to mobilise the military to arrive in time to assist the rangers. They hope that the concerted co-operation of the military, local authorities and local residents would bolster efforts to curb dubious activities of illegal lumberjacks.
Meanwhile another ten-year-old Sua tree in Nguyen Tat Thanh Street in Huong Thuy town in the central province of Thua Thien Hue was cut down on May 3. In 2011 also, two Sua trees in Nguyen Tat Thanh Street had been cut down by lumberjacks.
Quang Binh Province finds ways to protect National Park