Wildlife rangers and officers from Chaiyaphum Police Station arrested six Vietnamese timber smugglers at the weekend at Phu Khiao Wildlife Sanctuary in Chaiyaphum province in the Isaan region of Thailand.

The suppression of the Vietnamese timber smuggling gangs started last year after Phu Khiao Wildlife Sanctuary wildlife rangers were notified that a group of Vietnamese men entered the sanctuary to obtain agarwood.

Following an investigation, on November 25 last year, officers encountered four smugglers but they managed to escape. However, one of the smugglers, a Vietnamese citizen, was arrested on December 2. Officers seized approximately 64 kilograms of agarwood pieces during the arrest.

From January of this year, the wildlife rangers frequently patrolled the area and found further evidence leading to the smuggling gang’s activity. The information they gathered led to the arrest of the six Vietnamese timber smugglers on Saturday, March 18.

he arrested suspects were Dang Hiep, Tran Cao Cuong, Nguyen Van Binh, Hoang Van Ba, Hoang Van An, and Hoang Xuan Van. Officers confiscated 171 kilograms of agarwood, two cars, and other equipment as evidence.

The gang face nine charges for violating the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act, Forest Act, and National Forest Act. The specific details of each offence and penalty have not been reported by the authorities.

Officers also reported that other suspects in the gang are still at large, and their criminal acts were found to be related to other foreign criminal groups in Thailand. They not only smuggled agarwood but also smuggled other precious timber and trafficked protected wildlife.

According to the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, between 2009 and the present, 41 Vietnamese suspects have been arrested in Thailand while 23 suspects were arrested in Malaysia for agarwood smuggling and Bengal tiger hunting.

Agarwood, known as Kritsana wood in Thailand, is highly valued due to its distinct aroma and potential health benefits. The wood has a long history of use in traditional medicine, perfume making, and religious ceremonies. Agarwood is also used to make incense and other fragrances and is a popular ingredient in Thai massage oils.

Thailand is one of the world’s largest producers of agarwood, and the wood is found in various regions throughout the country. However, due to over-harvesting and illegal trade, agarwood is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive.

In Thailand, various measures have been implemented to protect the wood. Any harvesting or trading must be done under the laws and regulations. The price of agarwood can vary depending on quality and rarity, the rarest and highest quality agarwood can sell for tens of thousands of dollars per kilogramme.

(source: – The Thaiger)