With so much corruption and money involved in the agarwood business, the human cost is also rising. Forest guards increasingly face the threat of being killed or injured by illegal poachers.
Thai ranger Prasit Kummoo was one of them.
Vichanond Saenphala, one of Prasit’s colleagues, recalls the events that led to his death: "Our officers were tipped off that there was a group of smugglers who came in to cut down agarwood trees in the area of Phu Khieo National Park. We had cordoned off the area, but during the cordon Prasit went in to grab a smuggler’s bag and when the bag dropped off his body, the guy turned a long shotgun on Prasit and shot him."
Forest guards are being killed by illegal poachers
"The fact is there has been agarwood tree smuggling for a long time from both villagers and foreign smugglers who come in illegally. Mostly it’s big networks with an investor and a big influential group behind them," the ranger continues.
The hunt for the poachers who shot Prasit Kummoo has been intense in the national park, with more than 200 armed personnel involved.
"Poachers are always heavily armed. They carry guns and weapons and go into the jungle for months to poach," says journalist Makkawan Wantul, who broke the story of the ranger’s death.
"The people who profit the most from illegal poaching are the middle men, whose lives are not at risk, and who make a lot of profit from it, a lot more than the poachers. Lives are lost just because of greed."
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