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Timber found in sanctuary

More than 100 cubic metres of luxury timber were found inside the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary near a Vietnamese-owned economic land concession on Saturday in Ratanakkiri province, according to Adhoc and a local resident, who suspect the timber was taken out of the protected area.

A representative of the company has denied any involvement.

Nearly 1,000 cut pieces of timber were found strewn in the sanctuary’s forest close to land owned by Hang Anh Lumphat company in Lumphat district, a company that had been feuding with local ethnic Lao residents.

“That timber was messily left in a long line [measuring] about 1 kilometre. They were logged in Lumphat Sanctuary and taken out,” said Dy Samey, a 40-year-old villager in the area. “Those are illegal timber since there is no seal on them. I feel sorry because since the time of our ancestors, there have been loads of luxury timber, but now they logged them all. Please help to solve this.”

Chhay Thy, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that each piece of wood was about 4 to 5 metres long, and up to half a metre in diameter.

“According to the estimate, that timber is about 100 cubic metres [in total] and the owner is not known. We have intervened to ask the experts and authorities for the inspection,” Thy said.

The discovery comes a day after 100 people from Thmey village in Lumphat district protested against the company, whom they accuse of clearing private farmland. The protest appears to have put a temporary stop to clearing in the area.

Chang Vangvoeng, a representative of Hang Anh Lumphat, said the company’s presence benefited the community.

“We are helping them to have a road and electricity,” he said, adding that the company had already agreed to leave them 1,000 hectares of land. As for the wood, Vangvoeng said Hang Anh Lumphat has no business dealings in timber, only rubber.

Kong Srun, Lumphat district governor, was not aware of the luxury timber haul but he urged those who were to report it to authorities, stressing that the affected area is under the control of environmental officials.

Chou Sophak, head of the Ratanakkiri provincial forestry department, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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