|Special use forest in Thạnh Phú District, southern Bến Tre Province. Two former agricultural officials in the province were arrested for alleged involvement in an illegal timber logging operation. — Photo tuoitre.vn|Viet Nam News
BẾN TRE — Police in southern Bến Tre Province have arrested two former agricultural officials for allegedly violating forest management regulations.
The arrestees are Trần Văn Hùng, former vice director of the province’s Agriculture and Rural Development, and Võ Văn Ngàn, former head of the province’s board for managing protected forest and special use forest .
Initial investigation shows that in April 2012, Ngàn proposed the province’s agriculture department exploit 2,000 cubic metres of mangrove in Natural Wetland Reserve Area in Thạnh Hải Commune, Thạnh Phú District as the mangrove was reported to die of disease.
Early June 2012, Hùng, on behalf of the agriculture department approved the proposal, allowing a local enterprise to chop down 25.2 ha of mangrove belonging to a special use forest.
Inspectors of the department and Bến Tre police later found that the logging was illegal, as the mangrove timber was chopped down and sold to the private enterprises without public auction. Moreover, the mangrove was not hit by disease or insects at all.
Others involved including head of Bến Tre Forest Protection Division Nguyễn Văn Đoàn, vice head of Technical and Science Desk under the agriculture department Tiết Kim Chiêu and forest management board staff. All mentioned are now restricted from leaving their residences and ordered to support police investigation.
Bến Tre has total forest area of about 7,800 ha, of which special use forest makes up almost 2,600 ha, mostly in coastal districts of Thạnh Phú, Ba Tri and Bình Đại. — VNS