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Forest thieves too poor to pay fines

Update: April, 25/2014 - 09:17
In Tin Toc Village, about 160 hectares of protective forest has been destroyed for cultivation by 61 households. — File Photo

SON LA (VNS)— Harsh penalties were needed to control illegal foresting and land clearance in northern Son La Province, officials say.

Tu Nang Commune has suffered the most losses in Yen Chau District. The law breakers were mostly ethnic people.

In Tin Toc Village, about 160 hectares of protective forest has been destroyed for cultivation by 61 households.

In Ta Lang Cao and Ta Lang Thap villages, big trees are chopped down and sawn up into round chopping boards. These are then sold in the district by people on motorbikes.

Hoang Van Yen, vice chairman of the communal People's Committee, said the committee had worked with the Forest Management Department to catch violators, but many did not pay their fines.

Some even continued to plant their crops on former forest land when there were no rangers around, he said.

Yen said that last February about 12 people were caught red-handed destroying forest for cultivation.

The committee ordered them to stop farming and gave them fines, but the illegal operators keep returning.

The reasons given for the land poaching was a shortage of production land - and forest rangers.

Hoang Van Dao, head of Yen Chau District's Forest Management Department, said that in Tu Nang Commune, one ranger was in charge of 13 villages. However, he said it took at least one day to patrol the forest area in each village.

Most of illegal logging and forest destruction cases are reported by neighbouring residents.

Lo Van Nhe, chairman of the commune's People's Committee, said many of those arrested said they were poor and had no money to pay fines.

Vi Van Hong was fined VND15.8 million (US$752) for destroying 1,220 sq.m of forest. Another violator Lo Van Moc was fined VND17.4 million ($828) for destroying 1,444 sq.m of forest.

However, commune authorities only collected about 15 to 20 per cent of this.

Ha Nhu Hue, vice chairman of Yen Chau District's People's Committee said that the committee had asked the forest management department to strengthen inspections on deforestation.

Local authorities would then be asked to set up patrol teams and increase fines. — VNS

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