Authorities are doing their best to combat the illegal logging of phayung trees in the Khao Yai-Dong Phayayen Forest Complex, but high demand for the wood has made it impossible to stamp out the activity, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) said yesterday.
Songtham Suksawang, director of the DNP's National Parks and Protected Areas Innovation Institute, said illegal logging was a major threat to Khao Yai-Dong Phyayen, a World Heritage site.
The DNP yesterday met to prepare a report on Thailand's efforts to protect the site after the World Heritage Committee (WHC) sought an explanation for the rise in the logging of phayung (Siamese rosewood) there.
Mr Songtham said the DNP has allocated a budget and manpower to the problem, but has been unable to eradicate logging due to strong international demand for the hardwood.
"The international community has played a part in the problem," he said.
The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex is one of the world's largest habitats for phayung trees. It comprises four national parks _ Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Pang Sida, Ta Phraya _ and the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary.
The 6,152-square-kilometre complex spans six Central and northeastern provinces _ Saraburi, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaeo and Buri Ram.
In the past four months, 27 cases of phayung logging have been reported in Thap Lan National Park alone. All the people arrested were Thais.
Numerous cases have also been reported at Pang Sida and Ta Phraya, where many of the people arrested were Cambodian.
"We will inform the World Heritage Committee [WHC] that the country has taken serious action to protect the precious wood, including organising joint patrols by the park chief and soldiers," Mr Songtham said.
The WHC demanded Bangkok submit its report by May 15.
Chaiyuth Khunchompoo, of the DNP's National Parks Office, said he was told by his informants that logging gangs plan to cut down all of the phayung trees in the forest complex within five years.
The gangs work "professionally", Mr Chaiyuth said. They also have good intelligence, so are aware of the authorities' movements, he said.
After being felled, the trees are transported to China via a well-organised logistics system, he said.
Mr Chaiyuth said the price of Siamese rosewood has soared, adding that felled trees of about a metre in diameter are worth 1.3 million baht.
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- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin