A suspected illegal logger and his men set fire to a pile of logs extracted from forest reserves in an attempt to dispose of evidence at a sawmill in the Gong Medang industrial area near Tembila. Pix courtesy of Forestry Department

BESUT: A suspected illegal logger and his men set fire to a pile of logs extracted from forest reserves in an attempt to dispose of evidence at a sawmill in the Gong Medang industrial area near Tembila on Friday.

The Forestry Department’s enforcement unit had been monitoring activities at the sawmill for two weeks following a tip-off, and were moving in to inspect the logs which were concealed under a pile of waste wood.

But upon entering the premises, the team was threatened by a group of men, including the suspected mastermind, which forced them to retreat and seek police protection.

“When the team returned at about 5pm, the logs were already destroyed by fire set by the illegal loggers,” said State Forestry director Datuk Ahmad Fadzil Abdul Majid.

No arrest was made, as the premises had been hastily abandoned.

Fadzil said the Fire and Rescue Department had to be called in to douse the raging flames and prevent them from spreading to other parts of the sawmill.

It took the firemen in one engine nearly one hour to put out the blaze.

“Despite (what happened), we will continue to investigate the case and act against those involved in trying to dispose of the evidence. We believe there are other leads in the factory,” Fadzil said, adding that his men managed to seize four band saws.

He said the group of men who had threatened the team are believed to be the same group who attacked his men and hijacked seized evidence, including a back hoe, during an operation at the Pelagat forest reserve in Hulu Besut, a couple of months ago.

“They are now challenging and threatening us. But we will not bow to threats, because it is our duty to protect the forest from being ravaged by greedy people,” he said, adding that it is clear that the illegal loggers are afraid of being hauled up and charged in court.

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