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Blood rosewood: Thailand and Cambodia team up to tackle illegal logging crisis and save lives

Cambodian and Thai officials have agreed to work together to combat illegal logging of rosewood and resulting violence between Cambodian loggers and Thai rangers, reports MCOT online news. Officials with both nations met on Tuesday and spent three hours discussing the issue.

Commercial logging was banned in Thailand following devastating floods in 1989. However, the ban has not stopped Cambodian nationals from illegally crossing the border to harvest rosewood. Over 400 Cambodians have been arrested logging across the Thai border. Confrontations between Cambodian illegal loggers and Thai wildlife rangers sometimes turn violent: 13 Cambodian illegal loggers have been killed since January 1st in Thailand. Rangers says they are firing in self-defense as loggers are often armed.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that the country needed a campaign to halt Cambodians from sneaking illegally into Thailand for logging.

“Please, kick off a campaign – why is there sneaking to cut their logs and [Thai soldiers] shooting us dead? Please look, the provincial governor, military, police, military police, please prevent this. Can you do it?” he said as reported by the Phnom Penh Post.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recently released a report that argued that Thailand should list its rosewood species under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) this year in order to crackdown on illegal logging.

“The major driver of this crime is the rosewood trade—a multi-billion dollar international market underwritten by Chinese demand,” the EIA report reads, noting that loggers are targeting both Thailand rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis) and Burmese rosewood (Dalbergia bariensis).

The World Bank recently released a study that recommended law enforcement agencies should focus on netting top organized criminals who are overseeing the global illegal logging trade, instead of just those who are doing the actual cutting, who are often propelled by poverty.

Both Thailand and Burmese rosewood are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Rosewood is used to manufacture luxury furniture, musical instruments, and high-end flooring, however the trees have been overexploited for decades.

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