VIENTIANE - With Pakistan suffering from unprecedented deforestation-driven flooding, are once forested, now denuded Southeast Asian countries the next natural disasters in waiting? The collusion between government, military and illegal loggers largely responsible for Pakistan's humanitarian crisis has taken a similarly severe toll on Southeast Asia's crucial upland forests.
The widespread destruction of the forests of Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for biofuel, palm-oil, rubber and paper-pulp plantations has been well-documented, and witnessed in the smog that frequently floats over the region from slash-and-burn deforestation. Now, the impact from years of unregulated logging in Laos, often presumed to be one of the last bastions of old forest in the region, is coming into sharper view.
The fact that the Laotian military maintains both legal and illegal logging operations is an open secret here; what is less known are the details of the profit-sharing agreements the military has with neighboring Vietnam and how these deals have contributed to massive deforestation in recent years. The Vietnamese army is widely believed to be extracting payment in timber along the border for the costs it incurs to help defend Laotian territory.
Read more: A tree falls in Laos