When I took this photo I really didn't know where the logging trucks were coming from or going to, I did know the logs ends were painted and stamped such that they were very official looking. In Laos as in most of Asia appearances are very important. I also knew that the logs were more than likely very illegal, there is no export of logs allowed in Laos.
Attapu is one of those southern provinces no one goes to over by the border of Vietnam. To the south is a part of Cambodia off most maps. Attapu might as well be it's own little kingdom because it's governed as such. The Boloven Plateau separates Attapu from Pakse and the Mekong river valley, things are much closer to Vietnam, and therein lies the rub.
Boloven Plateau is the high bluff behind town, I'd guess it's a couple thousand feet higher in elevation
In town things are very quiet. Few cars, dogs sleep undisturbed, wide empty boulevards. I'm reminded of Laos from the decade before last. There is no entertainment, no English language cafes or guest houses, I saw no foreigners in the provincial capital. There is nowhere for cars to come from or go to except Vietnam. Up the road and up the river is Sekong, which is much of the sameness.
While in Salavan some how the communications went out. No internet, no land line phone, no credit card, no one noticed or cared in Salavan, Sekong, or Attapue.
What prompted me to write and take a look back at my photos from 3 years ago was the release of a video by the Environmental Investigation Agency. I urge people to watch the video, it shows the large scale theft of irreplaceable resources from the Lao people by private companies in Vietnam abetted by the Vietnamese military. The investigative reporters catch officials of the lumber companies admitting multiple times to breaking the law.
During the past year scientists have been discovering new species in the Mekong region at the rate of one species every couple days. Laos as well as Burma are two of the largest repositories of unknown species. They have intact uncut forests. No doubt some species are becoming extinct before we know they exist.
The Lao and Vietnamese people have a different kind of relationship in these southeastern portions of Laos. During the war this is the part of the Ho Chi Minh trail most heavily bombed. To the east lay South Vietnam. I would think most of these towns were leveled.
Above the classic pith helmet of the NVA and the Mao cap of a Pathet Lao soldier. I'm not sure how many if any Lao soldiers worked on this portion of the HCM trail. Today Vietnamese junk collectors purchase UXO in villages to be used as scrap
When I see people repairing log skidders I know that lots of active logging is going on not too far away.
Logs are winched up onto the back of the truck and carted to a place where they can be loaded onto an 18 wheeler and trucked over the pass to Vietnam.
Below is the bridge at Attapue, it leads in to town from Vietnam and would also facilitate carrying anything from the entire Sekong river basin over to Vietnam. Nice bridge.
What you can do.
First off don't buy any wood products from Vietnam or China. Neither country has their own lumber industry and anything you buy made of wood from there is coming from cut tropical forests.
Don't buy products made of wood from Europe either. Europe is the second most popular destination after Asia. Rosewood is murder if I can steal a phrase from PETA.
Buy only wood products from America. We have large replenishing sustainable supplies of very good woods.
Think twice before buying anything. After the wood cutters come the rubber plantations and the copper mines. We are eating too much stuff, we consume, we are bloated from big box stores or delivered to your door via Amazon.
Update: Thank You for the Rescue, still not sure how to find out who rescued, but thank you. I should also give a hat tip to the US Embassy Vientiane who clued me in to the investigative video which might well have repercussions in that it names names. Cutting the forests of Laos is becoming an uncool activity.