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Attapeu Governor vows to identify, punish Illegal Timber Traders under Law

Date: 02 August 2017; Type: Legal News; Source: Vientiane Times

Investigations are ongoing to identify those behind illegal timber found on trucks in Attapeu province with the wrongdoers to be held responsible and face the law, the provincial governor has said.

Speaking to local media in his office on Tuesday, Dr Nam Vinhaketh said authorities in charge have so far removed the illegal wood from 13 trucks, which were among 27 trucks detailed at Phoukeua International Checkpoint in the province in June.

The authorities will continue removing the timber from the remaining trucks, he said in a video clip posted on the province's official Facebook site 'Attapeu Online'.

The trucks controlled by Kham Lattanaphone Crafting Company, which is owned by Mr Kham Lattanaphone, were carrying products bound for export through the checkpoint.

The illegal timber was hidden among legal products permitted and declared for export. Authorities at the checkpoint detained the trucks after discovering the undeclared illegal wood.

Dr Nam said the company manufactures wooden furniture and crafts products for export.

Investigations found that the 27 trucks were hired by the company to transport the goods.

Provincial officials in charge of the issue told Vientiane Times yesterday they were unable to detail the exact amount of illegal timber removed from the 13 trucks as they have yet to tally it up.

The discovery of the illegal timber came as the government escalated efforts to address illegal logging, notably after Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith issued Order No. 15 in May last year that imposed measures to strictly regulate timber businesses, log movements and prohibiting the export of unfinished wooden products to address illegal logging.

The government's Task Force Committee in charge of implementing PM Order No. 15 is entrusted to investigate the issue in collaboration with provincial authorities.

"The issue is under investigation to find out the amount of illegal timber and who is responsible for this," Dr Nam said.

The governor said it was his province's responsibility to get to the root of the problem on how 27 trucks could load such an amount of undeclared export products.

"We will appoint a provincial committee to investigate the issue," he said.

He pledged to overhaul the relevant procedures and systems including the export-permit process to close loopholes relating to the chronic issue, saying businesses trying to illegally export products was a long-standing issue in the southern province.

Since the government began taking tougher action to crackdown on illegal logging, attempts to export illegally harvested timber have emerged time after time.

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

Some 28 wood processing plants along with 692 family-based furniture plants whose operations violated the relevant regulations have already been shutdown. Another 467 family-based furniture plants still operating without business licenses will also be closed.

The progress made has gained wide-spread public support. However, another matter is bringing those involved in the illegal action to justice.

As it is believed those behind this illegal trade are influential figures and business tycoons, critics said it was a challenging task for law enforcers to hold the involved parties responsible.

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