FOREST rangers have arrested three Vietnamese men suspected of intending to illegally log a strip of forest connecting Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary and Mae Wong National Park.
The men are believed to have participated in a shootout with park rangers on Wednesday in which another Vietnamese man was shot to death and a ranger badly injured.
People from a village adjacent to Mae Wong contacted rangers after encountering three men who seemed exhausted while walking near the village, said Mae Wong chief Kittipat Tharapiban. A hunt ensued and the three were eventually arrested last night.
The body of the man killed by rangers in the firefight has been sent to police for a forensic examination.
The four men, all believed to be Vietnamese nationals, reportedly entered the forest connecting a wildlife sanctuary to a national park to illegally log Agarwood.
The case has highlighted the increase in illegal logging by foreign nationals in Thailand’s forests.
A ranger patrol last month found signs of illegal Agarwood logging in the designated world heritage sanctuary.
They expanded their search before clashing on Wednesday with a group of illegal loggers in a nearby area with each side exchanging fire.
The gun battle resulted in a logger being shot dead and a ranger suffering serious injuries. The logger’s passport was found in the area and he was identified as Nguyen Van Thai, a 31-year-old Vietnamese national. Officers had been hunting for the other three men who fled the scene before being arrested last night.
The injured ranger was sent to hospital and has received medical treatment. This is not the first time that foreign nationals have been discovered illegally cutting Agarwood in Thailand’s forests.
As far back as 2009, Vietnamese were found illegally entering forests in Nan province to log the wood, according to information gathered by Polawee Buchakiet, the chief of Thungyai Naresuan East Wildlife Sanctuary near Huai Kha Khaeng and several more incidents have occurred in other forest areas.
The chief is concerned that illegal logging is increasing and has called for increased tracking and suppression of illegal logging of the wood in Thai forests.
The problem is not limited to Vietnamese loggers. Other tree species are targeted by other foreign nationals, including popular Phayung wood in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, another world heritage site.