A group of tourists who visited Phou Khao Khouay National Park have uncovered a massive illegal logging operation.
“The chainsaws could be heard all day long,” say the group, who visited the national park last weekend.
The Phou Khao Khouay National Biodiversity Conservation Area is located about 40 kilometers northeast of the capital city of Vientiane. The forest connects the provinces of Vientiane, Bolikhamxay, and Xaysomboun.
The loggers were spotted transporting huge volumes of timber blocks through the protected area in a caravan of carts.
“They were quite friendly and didn’t take issue with being photographed at all. They even gave us a thumbs up,” the tourists told Laotian Times.
Logging, which has always been a difficult problem to resolve in Laos, has become significantly worse amid an economic downturn in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is quite difficult to conduct investigations on illegal logging across such a vast area,” says Mr. Bounpheng Vichit, an officer from the Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
“As soon as we received the information on Monday, local authorities inspected the area to determine the exact location of the incident. Our office is now coordinating with them to continue the investigation and find out who is behind the logging,” Mr. Bounpheng told the Laotian Times.
He said that the ministry is attempting to educate local people on the importance of conservation, while information is being collected on poor families in the area so that they can be provided with assistance.
The forests of Laos have traditionally been an important source of wild foods, herbal medicines, and house construction materials; nevertheless, during the past few decades, the widespread commercial harvesting of lumber for the export market has increased significantly.
In the last few years, large areas of forest have been illegally logged in national parks across Laos, with logging reported in the Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area in Champasack last year, as well as Phou Phanang National Conservation Area in Vientiane Capital.