Vietnam: Army ‘colluding’ in Laos deforestation

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By Rachel Harvey BBC South East Asia correspondent

An international lobbying group has accused the Vietnamese army of involvement in the illegal export of timber from neighbouring Laos.

The Environmental Investigation Agency says the multi-million-dollar trade is causing the rapid disappearance of some of the region’s last tropical forest.

A Vietnamese military-owned company named in the report said it acted in full compliance with the laws of Laos.

The timber is processed in Vietnam into furniture with much exported to Europe.

The new EIA report comes at a time when the European Union is drafting new legislation to try to tighten regulation of the timber trade.

‘Full compliance’

Working undercover, the EIA said it had discovered that laws banning the export of raw timber from Laos were being routinely and openly flouted.

Most of the logs are being sent over the border to feed Vietnam’s booming wood processing industry and to make furniture, much of which ends up in Europe and the US.

The lobbying group traced logs from virgin tropical forest in Laos to a Vietnamese company owned by the military.

Speaking to the BBC, the cited company rejected the accusations made against it, saying it was in full compliance with the laws of Laos.

But the EIA says the trade is illegal and the only beneficiaries are corrupt government officials and well-connected businessmen.

Some of the wood comes from areas being cleared to build hydroelectric dams – part of an ambitious Laotian project to become a major supplier of electricity to the wider Mekong region.

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