Saturday, July 16, 2011

Illegal Cambodian loggers add to tensions

Jul 16, 2011
Bangkok Post

The felling of Siamese wood by Cambodian loggers could erode the already fragile relationship between Thailand and Cambodia.

Reports of Cambodians secretly crossing into Thailand to cut the trees are worrying 23rd Ranger Task Force chief Thanasak Mittraphanon, whose unit is already burdened with its mission to monitor the 4.6 square kilometre overlapping border around the World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple.

The illegal loggers are cutting the trees because the price of this wood has risen 100,000 baht a cubic metre, Col Thanasak said.

He believes they cut the trees almost daily.

Known by Thai locals as mai phayung, the wood is highly sought after by furniture makers for its hardness, resistance to insects and beautiful patterns.

The largest market for Siamese wood logs is China. The tree species is abundant around Preah Vihear and nearby areas in the Phanom Dongrak mountain range.

Thai military rangers have been ordered to take careful action when they spot Cambodian poachers in Thai forests.

"We shout at them," Col Thanasak said, explaining how the officers expel them.

This method works sometimes, he said, but if they still continue to cut the trees, the rangers have to make arrests.

In the worst case, some loggers open fire at the officers who then cannot help but react in kind to protect themselves.

But the military response has become a concern for Col Thanasak as the issue may further weaken Thai-Cambodian relations, which are sensitive following the border dispute near Preah Vihear.

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