Watchdog says Vietnamese officials bribed by log smugglers

680news

by The Associated Press

Posted May 8, 2017 4:29 am EDT

Last Updated May 8, 2017 at 5:20 am EDT

FILE – In this July 2002 file photo, dust flows from under the truck loaded with logs as it makes its way on a rural road in Preah Vihear province, north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. An environmental watchdog has accused Vietnamese government and military officials of taking payoffs to ignore vast smuggling of lucrative lumber from neighboring Cambodia. Millions of dollars in bribes have been paid by Vietnamese timber traders to both Vietnamese and Cambodian officials, the report issued Monday, May 8, 2017, by the U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency alleges. (AP Photo/ Heng Sinith, File)

BANGKOK – An environmental watchdog has accused Vietnamese government and military officials of taking payoffs to ignore vast smuggling of lucrative lumber from neighbouring Cambodia.

Millions of dollars in bribes have been paid by Vietnamese timber traders to both Vietnamese and Cambodian officials, the report issued Monday by the U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency alleges.

It says the Vietnamese officials are paid off in exchange for granting import quotas for the timber and Cambodians are paid to open up logging areas and smuggling routes. The logging itself in Cambodia is often illegal, taking place in protected areas such as national parks.

Cambodia has banned the export of logs and since early 2016 has closed its border with Vietnam to timber as well. However, Vietnam has official quotas for such imports, which are also taxed.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to AP’s request for comment on the report. Sear Ra, deputy chief of Cambodia’s Forestry Administration, noted that such exporting was stopped 2016, and if it had happened since then, it would have been done secretly and illegally.

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, much of it due to illegal logging and corrupt land deals.

Much of the timber trade is protected by military units that profit from deals with the loggers.

Vietnam’s official quotas facilitate the smuggling from Cambodia and even allows Vietnam to profit by taxing the smuggled logs, the report says.

“Approximately 300,000 cubic meters of logs have been smuggled out of Cambodia and laundered in Vietnam under these quotas,” it says, estimated the kickbacks have totalled more than $13 million since the beginning of November 2016′

The watchdog says Vietnam and the European Union are expected to sign an agreement to try to ensure only legal timber is exported from Vietnam.

“This is the single largest log-smuggling operation that we have seen for years,” the group’s senior forests campaigner, Jago Wadley said in a news release. “Vietnam must address this weak approach to any agreement with the EU to combat illegal logging and the associated trade.”

The report points out that the illegal trade comes as Vietnam is working hard to protect its own forests, even as Vietnam’s government “has promoted the rapid expansion of an export-oriented wood processing sector, which has become the sixth largest in the world.”

It says Vietnamese exports of wood products are projected to total $8 billion this year, while imports account for at least 80 per cent of the raw materials consumed by its factories.

Cambodia and Laos, another neighbour of Vietnam, together provided Vietnam with illicit timber worth almost three quarters of a billion dollars in a single year, says the report, noting that a crackdown in Laos has shifted the smugglers’ attention to Cambodia.

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This entry was posted in Corruption - Tham nhũng, Governance - Công quyền, Hình luật and tagged , , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage dotchuoinon.com on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development (cvdvn.net). I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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