The rise of robots in manufacturing in Southeast Asia is likely to fuel modern-day slavery as workers who end up unemployed due to automation face abuses competing for a shrinking pool of low-paid jobs in a “race to the bottom”. Especially, the workers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines — at least 137 million people — risk losing their jobs because of the automation in the next two decades. Those workers are more vulnerable to workplace abuses as they jostle for fewer jobs at lower wages.
Earlier this year Vietnam initialled a timber trade agreement with the EU that will see Vietnam implement legislation to address imports of illegally harvested and traded timber in return for timber exports to the EU. According to a recent EIA investigation, Vietnam continues its role as a serial offender in the illegal timber trade, with large volumes of illegal timber still flowing across the Cambodian border unhindered. EIA have identified three main areas within Cambodia where substantial illegal logging operations continue. EIA tracked timber from these sites is being smuggled out of Cambodia and into Vietnam across informal crossings.
Long known as a hotspot for rapid and largely illegal deforestation, Cambodia was singled out in a May 2017 EIA report. The report was the result of months of undercover investigations which found that from November 2016, more than 300,000 cubic metres (nearly 10.6 million cubic feet) of timber have been illegally felled in a wildlife sanctuary and two protected areas in Cambodia. Most of the timber was sold to Vietnam and generated $13 million in payments from Vietnamese timber traders. Environmental experts believe that a much-publicized crackdown on illegal logging launched in Cambodia in early 2016 had very little effect.
EU and Vietnam complete negotiations on a deal to combat illegal logging and promote trade in legal timber
The EU and Vietnam conclude negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The agreement will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU, and other markets.
Zambian government has announced a ban on all “In Transit” timber within the country. 17 species of timber have been specified within the official Statutory Instrument, with the most notable inclusions pertaining to Pterocarpus chrysothrix (mukula)—a threatened species most commonly sourced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The decision addresses ongoing international concerns that the country is being exploited by smuggling networks to transport timber to lucrative markets overseas, with primary destinations including China and Vietnam.
WWF-Vietnam and the Center for People and Forests have launched a joint project under the “Responsible Asia Forestry & Trade” (RAFT) Partnership on sustainable forest management, focusing on classifying and identifying timber for international trade. Viet Nam is also at the final stage of signing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU.
Vietnam has largely succeeded in reforestation within its border. Started in the 1980s, accompanying the transition to a market-driven economy, forestry management moved to a multi-sector approach with NGOs, businesses, local communities and management boards involved from originally government control. In 2008, Vietnam become a REDD pilot country, and both Forest Trends and FAO have recorded the increase in forest cover in Vietnam. However, challenge still exits. The demand for wood products in Vietnam is high, and now the country imports much from Cambodia, where illegal and unsustainable loggings happen frequently.
Monks and villagers in Ubon Ratchathani’s Khemmarat district of Thailand have teamed up to protect their 100-year old Siamese rosewood forest from illegal logging gangs. The rosewood trees in this area have grown naturally for 100 years, and most are more than six metres high. By closing the temple doors during the night, the monks are preventing illegal logging gangs from entering the temple and cutting down the trees. Most illegally cut rosewood trees are transferred to China via Laos and Vietnam. During 2008 – 2014, over 27,000 pieces of Siamese rosewood have been confiscated by police and some 395 offenders arrested.
A new WWF report warns that the Greater Mekong subregion in Southeast Asia risks losing more than a third of its natural forest cover in the next two decades at current rates of deforestation. The region, which is host to vital freshwater systems and forests depended upon by iconic species and a huge human population, is threatened by dam development, poaching and timber theft. The local governments have also given away large concessions to mining companies and plantation owners in designated protected areas.
The Viet Nam Administration of Forestry announced that over 13,700 violations of forest protection and timber management laws were reported in the first six months of 2012. Around 623ha of forest land have been lost in this period as a result of changes in forest use purposes, illegal logging and forest fires. Government ministries working on the issue aim to tighten controls on the wood processing industry and local authorities have been ordered to review existing forestry projects and ensure that forest protection programmes are adequately funded.
Two forest managers and a businessman have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the illegal logging of 500 cubic metres of protected forests along the Laos border. The arrests follow those of six others who the Vietnamese police have proposed charging with violations of forest management and bribery.
Investigation underway into illegal logging of natural forest in central Viet Nam. It is thought that illegal logging in the region is on the rise, in part due to access being opened up by reservoirs for hydro-power projects. These projects have also displaced local farmers who have then deforested land to set up new farms.