23 May 2024

The abbot of a temple in Thailand’s northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom has admitted that the temple committee, with the consent of people in the community, decided to sell a 200-year old Payoong (Siamese rosewood) tree to a timber merchant for 1.2 million baht because the temple could not protect the tree from loggers, who had been trying to fell the tree for the precious timber which is highly prized in Vietnam and China.

The six Payoong logs, which originated from Wat Supararam forest temple in Tambon Si Songkram, Si Songkram district, were seized by border patrol police at a checkpoint in Tha Uthen district on the night of June 12th.  The logs were about to be smuggled through Laos to a buyer in Vietnam.

The abbot said that loggers had already succeeded in cutting down two smaller Payoong trees on the temple grounds and had tried to fell this 200-year old tree, adding that the temple was unable to guard the tree around the clock.

The temple committee discussed the matter with people in the community who agreed it was better to sell the tree to a timber merchant than to let the tree be stolen by loggers and get nothing, said the abbot, adding the deal was legal after amendments to the forestry law allow individuals to own, plant and sell precious trees, such as Payoong.

The rest of the Payoong trees in the temple grounds are safe, according to the abbot, because they are close to the monks’ sleeping quarters and there are CCTV systems and guards to deter loggers.

However, export of the precious Payoong logs is not possible without an official permit.