The Royal Forestry Department (RFD) has sacked another forest patrol officer, this time in Kamphaeng Phet province, after a teak log was found to have fallen from a pickup truck allegedly driven by him during a chase.
The truck had dropped the log on the way from Khao Sanam Priang Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday, after being pursued by Khao Sanam Priang rangers.
It was found near to where the vehicle had eventually been stopped.
Inside the truck, rangers found an RFD uniform with the name of Yodchai Thaophu, a forest patrol officer of the department’s Nong Tao It forest protection unit in the province, along with his mobile phone, and other items.
RFD deputy head Athapol Charoenshunsa, on receiving the report, issued an order to fire Yodchai from the forest patrol service.
The patrol officer’s chief at Nong Tao It is now also subject to a probe to see whether he was involved in the illegal act.
Athapol, who is also director of the government’s Forest Protecting Operation Centre (FPOC), had earlier instructed forestry officers nationwide to step up their surveillance during the three-day holiday period.
In recent months, some forestry officers at the RFD have been exposed for having been involved with illegal logging gangs, prompting the department to root them out.
Nearly 10 forestry officials have been involved and punished following the RFD’s orders.
Early this month, the FPOC and its Phayak Prai taskforce seized more than 300 planks of hardwood (pratu) as well as nearly 20 logs from a wood-processing factory in Udon Thani province, believed to be part the largest Chinese-led logging gang, Mu Lan.
Several forestry officers were found to have been involved and have already been sacked.
Phayak Prai taskforce chief Cheewapap Cheewatham earlier said that the operation followed a series of raids over the past months that had revealed the extent of the network of logging gang members led by Chinese nationals under the leadership of so-called “Mu Lan”.
The raids prompted Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat to instruct the taskforce to expand its investigations in order to get the masterminds, including Mu Lan, whose whereabouts remain elusive.