Friday, 11 April 2008

Police Find More Buried Logs in Riau

Police Find More Buried Logs in Riau

Source: The Jakarta Post - April 2, 2008 By Rizal Harahap, Bangkinang

Police in Riau province on Tuesday discovered two more large stashes of buried logs believed to have been illegally felled near Gunung Sahilan village in Kampar Kiri district, Kampar.

The latest discovery follows an investigation into an earlier find in the same area. The number of logs in these two latest sites is much higher than at the first.The original stash of buried logs was discovered March 26 during a routine patrol by Kampar Kiri Police and local residents.

They noticed a number of logs protruding through the ground after flooding in the upper reaches of the Air Panas River in Gunung Sahilan.After scouring the area, police found thousands of logs buried side by side, about five meters below the ground.

The entire site was 20 meters wide and spanned more than one kilometer.Police on Tuesday found another pile of logs protruding from the ground, about 3 kilometers from the first site, with acacia trees growing in the area.According to Kampar Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. MZ Muttaqien, this new site was about five meters deep and around one kilometer long."The sites are like mass graves for logs.

Some of the logs have rotted, probably because they have been buried so long," said Muttaqien on Tuesday. Kampar Police later intensified patrols along the border between Kampar and Kuantan Sengingi regencies. There they found several logs protruding from the ground among acacia trees.After scouring the area, they found another site, covering about 8 hectares, with logs buried to about a depth of 10 meters.

"The last location was very difficult to reach because we had to pass through a narrow path with fallen trees obstructing the way. At a glance, no one would imagine it contained thousands of buried trees due to the presence of the acacia trees planted over them," said Muttaqien.

He estimated the acacia trees covering the site were planted six to eight months ago. Kampar Police will invite a team of experts from the Bogor Agriculture Institute to assess the volume of logs and help determine when they were buried."We earlier estimated the logs have been buried for a year," he added. Muttaqien believes the logs were buried by illegal loggers trying to conceal evidence.

"We still have no indication as to who they belong to. We must uphold the presumption of innocence and not arbitrarily accuse anyone," he said.According to Kampar Forestry Office head Zafrul Ilyas, the three burial sites are located in forest preserves, near concession areas for production forests.

"They are located between the Tanjung Pauh and the Tesso Nillo limited production forest concession areas," he said.Kampar Regent Burhanuddin Husein speculated the illegal logs were felled in natural forests around the three sites."Apparently, we still face difficulties in protecting the forest due to limited personnel.

I call on every component of society to protect the forest together," he said.Riau Forestry Office head Zulkifli Yusuf said he had handed over the case to the police and that his office would assist them in providing whatever information was necessary."We won't be directly involved, only as expert witnesses," he said.

He said his office would take over the case if the police officially announced they had been unable to determine the owners of the logs."The evidence will be auctioned off if the case cannot be prosecuted because those responsible can not be found," said Zulkifli.