Villagers held in army logging sweep

CHIANG MAI — A task force led by soldiers of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) on Thursday swept through four villages and arrested five people, while confiscating 150 processed pieces of illegal timber and 50 logs from an area in Chiang Dao district known for resistance to official inspections.

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The arrests and seizure followed simultaneous raids on four villages in tambon Ping Kong by a 500-strong team of military-police officers and park officials from Sri Lanna National Park to crack down on forest invasion and illegal logging. The villages were Huay Nam Rin, Ban Kew Hai, Ban Parng Tong Nok and Ban Parng Nai.

The villagers, mostly Muser hilltribe people, were recently found to have encroached on Sri Lanna National Park land to establish a residential community, illegally fell Pradu and Kraya trees in a watershed forest area and practice shifting cultivation. 

They obstructed park officials trying to inspect their villages in their previous anti-illegal logging operations, said Col Akkarawat Wuttidejchotipokin, chief of Chiang Mai Isoc’s intelligence unit.    

Five Muser men were arrested in Thursday’s operation. 

Much of the confiscated timber had been used to build houses to deceive authorities while waiting to be smuggled out of the area to sell to furniture makers.

Col Akkarawat said the task force had ordered the leaders of the four communities to immediately stop felling trees in the forest or face arrest, and explained to them about the negative impact from such activities.

The task force would launch another operation at another Muser village in another district in the province, he added. 

Chiang Mai deputy governor Chana Pangpiboon said forest restoration projects would be launched in the area along with other measures to convince the villagers to refrain from felling trees and help protect the forest.

The province would also introduce a career development initiative for the local people if they fully cooperated with authorities, Mr Chana added. 

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