Police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands have apprehended three suspects for their alleged involvement in the poisoning of 3,500 decades-old pine trees in late April.
Colonel Dinh Xuan Huy, deputy director of the police department in Lam Dong Province, affirmed on Wednesday that Ngo Van Diep, 35, Nguyen Van Loi, 23, and Duong Van Hong, 53, are all in police custody and are expected to be charged with the crimes.
The suspects are accused of property damage, rather than deforestation, due to the fact that the vandalized area is part of a 133-hectare plantation used by its owner, Tan Mai Corporation, for growing trees to make paper, according to Col. Huy.
The trees, all about 20 years old, were found dying of herbicide poisoning late last month.
|A bird’s eye view of the forest area where ten hectares of pine trees were poisoned in Tan Thanh Commune, Lam Ha District. Photo: Luu Quynh / Tuoi Tre|
According to Tran Quang Sang, a manager at Tan Mai Corporation, the leaves on the about 3,500 trees on the plantation first began turning yellow on April 28.
Upon inspection, Tan Mai staff discovered that holes had been drilled in the tree trunks to facilitate their exposure to herbicides.
In early May, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged competent authorities in Lam Dong Province to probe the case and issue stern punishments for those responsible.
Since 2018, the area has been vandalized several times in what authorities suspect are attempts to reclaim the land.