Malaysia: Armed enforcement team formed to protect forest reserves

The Star 30 Oct 16;

KOTA KINABALU: Trespassers into Sabah’s forest reserves are becoming more aggressive, prompting the state Forestry Department to form an armed enforcement team.

The intruders – mostly gaharu or sandalwood harvesters and poachers – do not hesitate to use weapons against forest rangers, according to department director Datuk Sam Mannan.

“Some of these culprits are foreigners. They do not want to go back to their home countries empty-­handed, so they are getting more vicious,” he said after launching the department’s Protect Squad at Labuk Forest Reserve near Sandak­an on Friday.

Mannan noted that a department officer was attacked at Kampung Sugut in the east coast Beluran district last year.

Earlier this year, a ranger fell victim to assailants in the northern Kota Belud district, he said.

“Our personnel are facing potentially dangerous situations now,” he added, citing a case at the Silabukan Forest Reserve near Lahad Datu last year, in which they stumbled on a man who turned out to be a militant from southern Philippines.

Mannan said the Protect Squad would have an initial batch of 25 personnel trained by the military in intelligence gathering, as well as enforcement and ambush techniques.

The selected forest rangers were also trained in self-defence, hand-to-hand combat and weapons handling.

He said the department was also expanding its canine unit to four tracker dogs as part of efforts to boost protection and increase enforcement of forest reserves.

Mannan said almost 800 forestry offences had been committed in Sabah since 2011 and some of them involved China, Philippine and Indonesian nationals.

The department has detained 486 individuals for various forestry offences and 192 have been charged in court so far.

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