Thailand Opens Dialogue with Neighbors about “Blood Wood”

Rosewood Trafficking Leading to Deforestation and Deaths

Freeland and Thai forest officials inspect an illegal Rosewood logging site in Thailand.

BANGKOK, December 23, 2014 – Thailand hosted government agencies from Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam last week for the first regional dialogue on the increasingly violent black market trade in rosewood, a rare species of trees found in forests in Thailand and other countries.

Thailand’s Ministry of Environment hosted the event which was organized by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP). At the request of the Royal Thai Government, Freeland, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other international organizations joined government officers to closely examine the causes and possible solutions to the rosewood crisis. Thailand was motivated to hold the conference because it is feeling the serious effects of the crisis. More than 30 Thai rangers have lost their lives protecting the Kingdom’s forests in recent years with many more being seriously injured or shot at by logging gangs toting AK-47s.

Rosewood is a coveted species of trees because of its red hue and hardness, ideal for carving into beautiful and very expensive furniture in China and Vietnam, as well as guitars in the United States and Europe.

“The dialogue meeting was a good start to cross border cooperation to bring this illegal trade under control, but we must convert talk into action fast,” said Steven Galster, Director of Freeland, which provides training and material support to Thai forest officers. “Despite the increased awareness and rhetoric, we still see rangers being outgunned by drug-induced, trigger happy, armed gangs.”

Thai rangers recently reported the prevalent use of amphetamines by illegal loggers who work without sleeping to quickly cut down and transport the heavy logs out through underground channels.

Despite many species of Rosewood having protection from international conventions and national laws, criminal syndicates behind the illegal logging continue to decimate forests and endanger the lives of those protecting them.