Laos: Illegal logging remains a big issue despite PM’s order

VIENTIANE, Feb 8 (Vientiane Times/ANN): Although the Prime Minister’s Order relating to control of the timber industry is being strictly enforced, illegal logging continues to be of great concern although it has declined in recent years.

In 2020, more than 2,600 cubic metres of illegally harvested wood and over 290 tonnes of illicit timber were seized, inspection authorities reported recently.

The figures were provided by the Deputy Head of the Party Central Committee’s Inspection Committee and Government Inspection Authority, Mr Sinay Mienglavan, at a national meeting held in Vientiane.

Authorities also inspected 2,788 wood processing plants which were found to be in breach of the Prime Minister’s Order.

Some 1,636 plants which failed to meet the operating criteria stipulated in the order were told to close.

According to Sinay, over the past five years authorities have identified more than 1,100 people involved in unlawful timber-related activities, including 127 state officials, with the remainder being businesspeople and villagers.

In Vientiane province, authorities held a meeting to review and assess the progress made in enforcing the Prime Minister’s Order, which was issued on May 13,2016.

Over the past year, provincial authorities found 16 cases of people illegally felling trees and selling timber. Some 194 cubic metres of illicit timber products were seized in recent months, with 11 people identified as being responsible for timber-related crimes.

In Khammuan province, inspection authorities confiscated more than 370 cubic metres in 2020. Of the total figure, 85 cubic metres were reported as prohibited tree species.

Even though the issue of illegal logging has not been fully resolved, Prime Minister’s Order No. 15 was a major achievement of the government led by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

The order banned the export of all types of unfinished wood products including timber and logs. This was considered a significant move in the battle to clamp down on the illicit trade in wood.

The order has not only helped to address illegal logging but has lent support to the war on corruption in the timber industry.

The move gained strong public support as it resulted in the confiscation and recovery of thousands of cubic metres of timber.

The order supports the government’s strategy to increase forest cover to 70 percent of the country’s land area, with forests viewed as critical for hydropower development and people’s livelihoods.

It is essential that the government continues to enforce the order through cooperation with village authorities so that communities have a better understanding of the issue and work together to end deforestation.

Local authorities have been told to patrol and inspect areas where trees may be felled illegally as well as monitor wood processing plants to clamp down on illicit activities. - Vientiane Times/ANN

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