KUALA TERENGGANU – Using a car that has almost been reduced to its frame to ferry cut timber, intended to pull the wool over the eyes of the authorities, is one of the tactics used by those quarters involved in stealing timber in Terengganu.
To the naked eyes, the car appeared to be totally out of commission with its boot modified, its four doors removed, engine completely exposed while only the driver’s seat remained intact.
As such, no one thought the Proton Saga car could be used to carry stolen timber and make its way surreptitiously through the forest reserve to prevent its tracks from being detected by enforcement authorities.
The misplaced creativity was found to have been perpetrated by several local men who were suspected of stealing timber around Besut, 85 kilometres from here, to enable them to carry out several pieces of timber each measuring more than three metres in length.
Terengganu State Forestry Department director Muhamad Abdullah, when met by Bernama, said despite using such deviousness, the enforcement personnel could still sniff out their activities through patrolling and public information.
His department also detected the sly tactic of encroaching into a forest reserve more than 15 km away from the closest settlements and highways, purportedly their traces would not be detected, resulting in some (thieves) blatantly hauling timber on motorcycles.
“Some of the thieves are processing timber into planks in the forest reserve and some (timber) are cut to four feet lengths and shipped to sawmills.
“These thefts usually involve small groups of three or four people and their activities will not be completed in one day. They will go in for one or two days, then come out, and go in again when they think it’s safe ..it’s being done without the use of heavy machinery, ”he said.
Muhamad said logging operations were usually conducted from midnight to 6 am and they would target quality timber trees such as ‘meranti’, ’balau’ and ‘cengal’ following the high demands in the market.
“According to records, there has indeed been an increase in cases of theft under the Movement Control Order (MCO). The thieves may be mistaken if they think that the department is also on vacation or working from home … when in fact the enforcement personnel are working more actively.
“So far we have conducted 555 patrols and inspections (nationwide). We know that if patrols are not escalated, theft cases will be more frequent and rampant, ”he said.
According to Muhamad, during the MCO from March 18 to April 22, the department managed to detect 11 cases including trespassing and illegal fellings, possessing untaxed timber and taking out forest produce without transfer passes.
He said the cases involved two hot spots, namely Besut and Dungun, and four men had been detained and they were now under investigation before being charged under several provisions of the National Forestry Act 1984 which carries a maximum fine of RM50,000 or a maximum of five years’ jail year or both.
“The suspects who committed the offense are usually in their 20s and, according to complaints received, in such cases, they were carried out by those involved with drugs, despite receiving negligible payments, “he said, thanking the police for often helping them in operations.
When asked if timber thefts also involved foreign nationals, Muhamad said Thais, Vietnamese and Myanmar normally encroached into the forest reserve to snare wildlife.
“I really hope that with this increased enforcement, we will be able to deliver the message to thieves out there that the Forestry Department is never complacent and asleep. We work day and night. We also hope the community can be our ‘eyes and ears’ by providing information in the event of theft, ”he said.