Sunday, May 24, 2009

Timber seizure sparks protest, troop action


KANCHANABURI (Bangkok Post): The seizure of 15 trucks loaded with logs brought in from Burma on Friday in Sangkhla Buri district has sparked a protest by timber traders. A team of about 30 police officers from the Central Investigation Bureau stopped the trucks for an inspection as they were entering Thailand through the Phra Chedi Sam Ong border checkpoint in tambon Nong Lu.

The officers ordered the drivers to abandon their vehicles, saying the cargo origin needed to be verified by the Royal Forest Department. A few days ago, 18 other timber trucks were stopped at the same place and then driven to the Customs Department's warehouse in Ban Phra Chedi Sam Ong pending verification of their timber's origin.

The latest seizure prompted nearly a hundred wood traders to protest police operations. The seized trucks were surrounded with motorcycles to prevent the officers from moving them and to pressure for their immediate release.

Central Investigation Bureau deputy chief Sriwara Rangsipramanakul, who led the team, later agreed to send the logs to the Customs Department's warehouse and the trucks to the Sangkhla Buri district police station. The protesting traders welcomed the move and agreed to disperse on Friday.

The incident also led to a Burmese troop build-up along the border.

Conflicts over cross-border transportation of timber is not uncommon in the province as many log poachers cut down trees in Thai forests and disguise them as imported Burmese timber.

The Commerce Ministry and Burma agreed four years ago to consider log imports on a case-by-case basis.

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