Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/Illegal Logging in Vietnam

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Illegal logging definition

Vietnam implements deforestation and illegal logging

Illegal logging takes place when timber is harvested, transported, bought or sold in violation of national laws. The logging procedures tend to be illegal,such as the access to forests, the extraction without permission or in protected areas, the logging of rare species or the exceeding of agreed limit. Also, the transportation process can be illegal in order to avoid taxes and other charges when the business exports and declares timber to Customs.[1] PLACE INVERTED COMMAS AROUND THE QUOTED TEXT.

History context

Vietnam's high deforestation rates were internationally concerned for creating incentives for illegal logging in neighboring countries, such as Laos and Cambodia REWRITE THIS SENTENCE; YOUR MEANING IS UNCLEAR. .[2] Some researches show Vietnam experienced a sharp decrease in national forest cover, which accounted for 200,000 ha annually with a deforestation rate of 2.4%.[3] Moreover, more than 75% of remaining forests are regarded as poor quality or replanted(<80 m³/ha).[4]
How could forest cover decrease so fast? There is a long history of forest damage and illegal logging boom in Vietnam. During the era of French colonization, almost 43% of the total forest lands were disturbed because of production forestry in the late 19th century.[5]With the outbreak of the Vietnam War, a large number of forests were subject to napalm, bombing and spray of chemical defoliants, along with the whole landscape flattened.[6][7]
However, the most serious deforestation stage occurred in the post-war period when Vietnamese people sought to reconstruct their homes and livelihoods. The demand for rebuilding 10 million homes after the war triggered a peak of industrial roundwood production at 5.4 million m³ in 1987.[4][7]Additionally, Vietnam government tried to earn foreign exchange and rebuild the economy through timber export, which firstly exceeded 1 million m³/year in 1960 and never came down.[8]
After the mid-1950s, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) started to nationalize all natural forests, extending till the reunification of Vietnam, which meant that villagers' logging activities were related to "illegal logging". The government established State Forest Enterprises (SFEs), allocating forests where local communities used to depend on and earn a living in a traditional way. Therefore, local communities lacked tenure and resource allocation rights and suffered from severe food shortages resulting from the reservation of forests.

Framing the problem

Forestry perspective

Aspect Actor Cause Impact
Political Local governments Corruption Seizing on ambiguities in national law and asserting decentralized power (giving out small-hold license)
Political State Forest Enterprises Nationalization of forests Claiming the authority of locally used forests
Political Vietnamese government Illegal import from Cambodia Colluding with corrupt Cambodian regional officials
Social Local communities Rural poverty Overexploiting forest resources
Economic Timber chain enterprises Bribe and monopoly Eliminating competition and having privileged access to oversea markets

Layering perspective

The description above describes illegal logging in Vietnam from the perspective of a forestry student. In this section we welcome contributions from other perspectives. Those interested in contributing to this case study may use the following questions as a guide:

  • How do scholars and professionals outside of forestry conceptualize the practice of illegal logging in Vietnam?
  • What are other possible ways of framing this problem?
  • What special expertise, resources, or theoretical orientations might others bring to help us understand this phenomenon better?


Forestry perspective


Delacour's langur

Illegal logging can trigger environmental problems. It directly leads to degradation or loss of forest cover, where illegal logging is linked with poor forest resources management. Also, it is related to loss of biodiversity and habitats. For instance, habitat loss has threatened some of the world’s most endangered primates, one of which is called Delacour's langur, presently restricted to limestone karst forest habitat of north-central Vietnam. [9] Illegal logging also plays a significant role in climate change since forests are essential for absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen as a kind of 'carbon sink' in ecosystems.


Illegal logging can disturb global markets and undermine incentives to manage forest sustainably. One study has calculated that illegal logging depresses world timber prices by between 7% and 16%, depending on the product, which triggers US firms lost at least US$460 million each year.[10]
Illegal logging can result in the loss of government revenue and land tenure as well. The World Bank estimated the annual government revenue loss was about 5 million US dollars.


Illegal logging leads to repression and human rights violations, or just plain exploitation. Basically, before the re-unification of Vietnam, local communities owned the forest which they depended on for a long period. The legislation process pushed them out and thereby their legal logging turned to be "illegal". The government forced people to consider illegal logging to maintain their lives. Like other countries, Vietnamese people seek developing opportunities and wanted to get rid of poverty by the way of illegal logging.

Layering perspective

The description above describes the implications from illegal logging in Vietnam from the perspective of a forestry student. In this section, we welcome contributions from other perspectives. Those interested in contributing to this case study may use the following questions as a guide:

  • How could someone from a different discipline or profession add to the implications above?
  • What other implications become apparent when illegal logging is viewed through the lens of other disciplines and professions?
  • What special expertise, resources, or theoretical orientations might others bring to help us better understand the implications associated with illegal logging in Vietnam?

Current initiatives to combat illegal logging


  • VPA agreed: 11 May 2017
  • Negotiations started: 29 November 2010

The Action Plan includes a number of measures[11]:

  • Negotiation of Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber-producing countries, under which FLEGT licenses for import to the EU will be issued to legally verified timber and timber products;
  • Implementation of the EU Timber Regulation, which entered into force in 2013;
  • Promotion of public procurement policies in consumer countries to support the trade in legal timber products;
  • Support to private sector initiatives to improve supply chain management and verify legal timber;
  • Encouragement of efforts in the financial sector to ensure that investments do not lead to illegal logging.


Forestry perspective

  • Government:

reduce corruption and recognize land and resource use rights of forest communities, or of the rights of other concession-holders[12]

  • International:
  1. financially sponsor local communities and teach them to manage their lands
  2. legislation for those who trade illegal-logging timber
  • Vietnamese people:

collaborate and fight against the government to protect their rights

Layering perspective

What recommendations might someone from another discipline or profession make to combat the issue of illegal logging in Vietnam? Examples might include:

  • Law
  • Geography
  • Environmental Science
  • Social Justice
  • Economics
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Philosophy


  1. Oldfield, S. (2012). The trade in wildlife: regulation for conservation. Earthscan.
  2. Global Witness. 1998. Vietnamese government attempts to cover up collusion with Cambodia over illegal timber trade-Global Witness releases the evidence, London: Global Witness.
  3. VNS [Vietnam News Service]. 1997a. “Deforestation is still ‘alarming’ says FAO”. In Vietnam News 1Hanoi March 27
  4. 4.0 4.1 Brown, C., Durst, P. and Enters, T. 2001. Forests out of bounds: Impacts and effectiveness of logging bans in natural forests in the Asia-Pacific, Bangkok: UN Food and Agriculture Organization Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
  5. Maurand, P. 1943. L' Indochine forestiere [The forests of Indochina], Hanoi, , Vietnam: Imprimerie d'Extreme Orient.
  6. Westing, A. H. 1975. Environmental consequences of the 2nd Indochina war: A case study. Ambio, 4(5–6): 216–222.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kemf, E. 1988. The re-greening of Vietnam. New Scientist, : 53–57. June 23[Web of Science ®]
  8. Ogle, A., Blakeney, K. J. and Hoe, Hoang. 1998. Natural forest management practices, Hanoi, , Vietnam: Asian Development Bank.
  9. Nadler, T., Xuan Canh, L., Ngoc Thanh, V. & Khac Quyet, L. 2008. Trachypithecus delacouri. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T22043A9350654.

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Nuo Shen.