Prayuth orders army to save forests

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday ordered all military units to launch a massive crackdown on illegal logging after two major forests were found to have been heavily deforested by gangs.

The order was issued during a meeting Gen Prayuth had with senior officers of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) in which they discussed "heavy deforestation" in the Salawin forest reserve in Mae Hong Son province and a major watershed forest in Nan.

Gen Prayuth instructed army outposts nationwide to launch surveys on illegal logging activities in areas under their supervision and then quickly coordinate with law enforcement agencies to prosecute offenders — especially gang bosses, those who hire them and investors behind the smuggling and trade of illegal timber. 

The units must keep an eye on wood-processing companies and wood furniture manufacturers suspected of being involved in illegal activities.

Gen Prayuth also ordered officers to give evidence relating to illegal deforestation to the media.       

The meeting was told of 58 illegal logging and trafficking cases in Salawin since early this month. Authorities were able to arrest nine suspects and confiscated 4,899 processed pieces of timber and 2,230 teak logs. 

The number of arrests involving forest intrusion and destruction from the Northeast to the East is on the rise, with the precious phayung tree (Siamese rosewood) being felled to the extent that the situation had reached a critical point.  

Third Army Commander Lt Gen Preecha Chan-ocha told the meeting that logging gangs which felled teak trees in Salawin forest took about two months to smuggle them out of the area. He said authorities were concerned that some local people were working with the poachers.

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