Concerns are mounting for the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex World Heritage Site in Thailand as armed and dangerous illegal logging gangs chop down rare hardwood trees to feed the growing demands in South East Asia. The latest World Heritage Sites report by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) calls for Cambodia, China, Lao People Democratic Republic and Viet Nam to halt illegal trade in Siamese rosewood to protect the value of the park.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site committee has given the Thai authorities until 15th May to respond to concerns over an increase in logging within the park so it may be considered by the next member states meeting in June. The report on the logging in the park is contained in the report to be presented to the 37th Session in Phnon Penh (pdf page 35).
There has been an increase in the incursions within the park as illegal loggers seek to exploit the redwoods and hardwoods in the forests including the CITES protected Siamese Rosewood. With large profits at stake the illegal loggers are happy to use force to ensure they get to the trees. In one incident in March one of the park rangers was killed during a gunfight with loggers.
Siam rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis) was listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP16) in Bangkok in March.
With Siam Rosewood now listed on CITES Appendix II, China’s timber trade and Government have a clear responsibility to ensure they adequately implement this international convention. But this alone is not enough – China needs to address its wider consumption of illegally sourced timber by joining other major consumer markets such as the EU, the US, and Australia in banning it
Songtham Suksawang, Director of Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), reported that high demand for the wood in the Chinese market has made it impossible to stamp out illegal logging in the forest complex, despite funds and manpower being allocated to address the problem.
The major driver of rosewood theft is China’s multi-million dollar market in luxury ‘Hongmu’ antique-style furniture. Surging demand and the increasing scarcity of Siam rosewood have conspired to raise prices offered by international traders to as much as US$50,000 per cubic meter.
The NGO Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is also calling for the Chinese authorities to crack down on the rosewood trade now that the species is protected by CITES. The Hongmu market is overseen by a Redwood Committee The Redwood Committee has more than 100 member companies involved in trade and manufacturing. Despite no legal sources existing, Siam rosewood is one of 33 species of precious and mostly endangered timber itemised by the Redwood Committee in a list of “legitimate” Hongmu materials.
EIA Forests Campaign head Faith Doherty said: “As long as China’s Redwood Committee and trade federations such as the CTWPDA continue to allow their members to trade in Siam Rosewood of illegal origin, all enforcement efforts by trade partners such as Thailand and other range state are being undermined.
“With Siam Rosewood now listed on CITES Appendix II, China’s timber trade and Government have a clear responsibility to ensure they adequately implement this international convention. But this alone is not enough – China needs to address its wider consumption of illegally sourced timber by joining other major consumer markets such as the EU, the US, and Australia in banning it.”
The EIA are also calling for the Thai government to do more to tackle the logging by increasing penalties and targeting the dealers and smugglers rather than local villagers.
“The Thai Government needs to strengthen penalties, because fines for illegal rosewood logging are so low that it doesn’t matter if you’re caught. Arrests of agents and traders are also needed rather than the hundreds of arrests of villagers from both Thailand and Cambodia,” Doherty added.
“In addition, the Government needs to support enforcement with realistic resources, and should convene a cross-border task force comprising Siam rosewood range states and China to zero-in on the agents and traders behind the illegal trade.”