Authorities in Vietnam’s Gia Lai province have recently stopped at least nine overloaded timber trucks crossing into the country from the Kingdom, despite the Cambodian government ostensibly banning wood exports to its eastern neighbour, according to a Vietnamese news report.
The report, published earlier this month by Baomoi.com, which is described online as a government-owned news outlet, complains about the danger of the overburdened timber trucks from Cambodia regularly barrelling down Vietnam’s National Road 19, which connects to the border crossing in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district, and refers to lax enforcement by Vietnamese authorities of the vehicles exceeding their weight limit.
Chief traffic inspector for Gia Lai province Nguyen Dang Hung told the outlet that his forces had stopped nine trucks carrying twice their legal capacity. In those cases, Vietnamese authorities unloaded excess wood, temporarily seized the trucks and fined the drivers about $28, it stated.
Not mentioned in the article is the fact that, since an export ban on timber was announced in January last year, no timber trucks from Cambodia should be present. Cambodian officials have repeatedly asserted that the timber trade with Vietnam has stopped following the ban and subsequent crackdown.
The article presents figures attributed to the Gia Lai People’s Committee from late last year stating that 16 companies in the province had been permitted to import 300,000 cubic metres of timber from Cambodia.
The Post was unable to reach a representative at the Gia Lai People’s Committee to verify the figure or establish its timeframe.
Recently released Vietnamese customs data collected by the US-based NGO Forest Trends, however, revealed that last year, Vietnam imported 139,306 cubic metres of uncut logs and just over 171,000 cubic metres of sawn wood from Cambodia.
Ratanakkiri provincial border police chief Heng Ratana, however, dismissed the report and figures. “Through my border there is no [timber smuggling],” he said, in comments later echoed by O’Yadav district police chief Mao Sann.
“The report is not right. If there were cases of [wood smuggling] journalists would report about it,” Sann said on the phone. “Each month we have cracked down on many cases. This month we stopped about five or six.”
However, saying timber flows to Vietnam were increasing, long-time anti-logging activist Marcus Hardtke called on the government to clarify its export ban policy and its legal status. “The trade to Vietnam is alive and well. If anything, it’s getting worse this dry season,” he said.