May 05, 2014 00:00 By Pongphon Sarnsamak The Nation
The government is set to seek the help of neighbouring countries in a bid to halt rampant illegal logging at the country's national forest reserves.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Viset Kasemthongsri said he would sign letters which will be sent to neighbouring countries.
He was speaking during a visit to Sop Moei district in Mae Hong Son to study the operation of local authorities to stop illegal logging at Salween reserve forest – the country’s largest natural teak forest, which has been hit by illegal logging gangs since last October.
Forest officials have seized over 190 teak logs in the past seven months.
The Salween reserve covers over one million rai, with about 100,000 rai containing teak worth about Bt80 billion.
The illegal-logging gangs have a preference for targeting teak located near the Salween River on the Thai-Myanmar border.
They use two-wheel carts to move logs from the reserve and leave them along the river before floating them down the river into Myanmar via small creeks, an official said.
Sop Moei district chief Boonkeu Kunatharakul said some areas in the district and Huay Mae Pua creek, located a kilometre from Ban Mae Sam Lab, had been used by illegal-logging gangs to transport the logs to avoid arrest.
The heavy illegal logging in the Salween followed the 36th Ranger Regiment Special Task Force recently ceasing patrols to catch the gangs.
And as no one lives in areas targeted by gangs, they can easily enter the forest reserve.
Viset accepted that local authorities struggled to arrest gangs because each local authority works separately.
In a bid to protect the Salween forest more effectively, he set up a special committee chaired by the Mae Hong Son governor, with an operation centre also established.
He also ordered forest officials to assess the illegal-logging risk for each forest reserve nationwide, and instructed officials to conduct more reconnaissance surveys in an attempt to prevent illegal logging.