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Lao govt to penalise wood exporters, dishonest officials
Publication Date : 10-10-2013
The government has decided to take measures to penalise companies and government officials involved in the illegal export of logs to Vietnam through a checkpoint in Saravan province.
The government office recently issued an announcement suggesting the Ministry of Finance impose the measures they had drafted and presented to the government.
Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong agreed and approved the measures following a report by the Finance Ministry that detailed the issue and suggested that an export company and several officials were involved in an illegal process, according to the announcement.
The Finance Ministry was asked to advise the export company about its wrongdoings and encourage it to comply with the measures.
The company is required to pay charges totalling 60 percent of the full value of the logs exported, in accordance with the value estimated by Vietnamese tax officials.
However, the announcement did not give details of the case or the total value provided by Vietnamese officials.
If the company refuses to abide by the measures, the officials in charge are required to compile the necessary documents and take the case to court, the announcement said.
The Finance Ministry was asked to take measures to punish officials involved in the wrongdoing, including reshuffling the whole board of officials overseeing the border checkpoint.
The government instructed the ministry to oversee the implementation of the announcement and report progress to the government on a regular basis.
Illegal logging has been reported as occurring from time to time and appears to be a chronic issue.
In view of the problem Finance Minister Phouphet Kham phounvong in July issued an instruction to various departments asking them to attach greater importance to the regulation of wood exports, to ensure that all timber revenues flow into the national budget.
Although a number of laws and regulations have been issued to regulate wood exports, these have been inadequately enforced, leaving loopholes for illegal logging.
Under the new instructions, the state asset authorities have been assigned to partner with the relevant sectors to inspect vehicles carrying timber to initial processing facilities such as sawmills. Meanwhile wood exports are permitted only at international border checkpoints.
Authorities who cooperate with or help businesses to export logs illegally will be disciplined, while business operators will face legal action.
Vietnam media reported that wood and timber products. along with metals and minerals, were the two key groups of items imported from Laos, valued at US$246 million over the past nine months.
Laos once had one of the highest percentages of forest cover in the world.
In 1940, 70 per cent of the land area was forested, comprising some 17 million hectares.
As the country has developed, forests have been depleted due to various factors including illegal logging.
In 1992, forest cover was about 47 percent of the total land area and decreased further to about 42 per cent in 2002. By 2010 it stood somewhere around the 40 per cent mark.