Vietnam authorities have rejected claims from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) that Vietnamese companies illegally purchase timber from Laos.

In its Commerce Interchange report, the EIA affirmed that Vietnamese timber companies like Zone 4 Military Technique Co-operation Company, Duc Long, Thanh Thuy, Khanh Thinh, Hoang Phat and Da Nang Vinafor, illegally imported wood from Laos to Vietnamese factories.

It is the second report the EIA has published on the illegal timber trade between Vietnam , Laos and Cambodia .

Vietnam Timber and Forest Products Association vice-chairman and general secretary Nguyen Ton Quyen said Laotian and Vietnamese customs officers strictly checked timber and followed rules regarding timber export and import activities.

In a press conference held on Aug. 31 in Hanoi Quyen said the Laos government permitted Vietnamese companies to exploit some areas as well as log land that was cleared to construct infrastructure, adding that companies were licensed to export timber which was used for commercial purpose by Lao authorities.

The companies comprehensively fulfilled the financial and tax obligations in accordance with Laos law.

Chairman of the association Tran Duc Sinh said that the association had confronted the European Environment Agency which funded the EIA investigation.

Sinh said the EIA's conclusion was not supported by the European Environment Agency (EEA) because the investigation was not transparently carried out, adding that the EIA's report did not give specific figures.

"The EIA used outdated information three years ago and the investigation was based on unofficial interviews," he said.

The EIA staff were disguised as customers when interviewing these companies with hidden tape recorders - the Vietnamese staff did not know who they worked with, Sinh said.

"It is not a comprehensive investigation and comments in the report are not objective," he said.

"Accusations which are apparently aimed at negatively impacting the Vietnamese timber sector could come from countries competing with Vietnam ," Sinh said.

Deputy head of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry's International Co-operation Department Nguyen Tuong Van, said EEA representatives recently visited Vietnam and already voiced concerns about EIA investigation methods.

The EEA has not responded to the report, Van added.

Between 200,000 – 250,000 cubic metres of timber out of 4 million imported into Vietnam each year come from Laos , which were used for the domestic market, Quyen said.

Quyen said that wooden products from Vietnam that had been exported to markets in the EU, the US and Japan were not made from timber imported from Laos due to high prices and unsuitable production technology.

In recent years, such products exported to the EU were made by imported timber sources with the Forest Steward Council's certification.

Last year, Vietnamese wood furniture exports to the EU and the US reached 1.4 billion USD of which 1 billion USD was solely to the US .

Vietnam's wood furniture exports to the US have reached 900 million USD in the first eight months of 2011 and Vietnamese companies have not felt any impact of the report from the US or EU, Quyen said.

In recent years, the EU has supported Vietnam 's timber processing industry and helped the industry to produce products to international standards, Quyen said.

In line with the FOB rules, Vietnamese companies have been responsible for transporting commodities to the port, he added.

The EU and the US have representative offices in Vietnam and tightly control licensing import certification, and these accusations won't impact Vietnamese wood furniture exports to the EU, Quyen said./.