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Undercover investigators find that illegal logging is rife

by David Masters
March 27, 2008

A new report dishing the dirt on the illegal timber trade says that much of the UK’s garden furniture is made with illegal timber from Indonesia, traded via Vietnam.

The report, published jointly by NGOs Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), based in the UK, and Telapak, based in Indonesia, says that the illegal timber passed through Vietnam is fuelling high-speed deforestation in Laos. Around 500,000 tonnes of illegal timber is moved out of Laos in this way every year.

Undercover investigations by the groups found networks of criminals destroying rainforests in Laos for exportation, in spite of laws that ban this activity.

Investigators acting as investors found a businessman from Thailand who boasted about the bribes he was paying to officials in Laos so that he could export timber worth an estimated US$500 million.

Meanwhile, secret cameras at a border crossing filmed 45 trucks of logs crossing the border from Laos to Vietnam.

Telapak and EIA conclude that countries such as Laos need to better enforce their timber laws, whilst timber importers such as the EU and the US should ban the import of products made using illegal timber. The EU is planning to introduce laws that address the issue of illegal logging in May in this year.

Head of Forest Campaigns at the EIA, Julian Newman, said: “The cost of such unfettered greed is borne by poor rural communities in Laos who are dependent on the forests for their traditional livelihoods.”

“The ultimate responsibility for this dire state of affairs rests with the consumer markets which import wood products made from stolen timber,” Mr Newman said.

“Until these states clean up their act and shut their markets to illegal wood products, the loss of precious tropical forests will continue unabated.”

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