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Sat Nov 24, 2012, 08:12 AM

rare hardwood sparks gunfights, corruption in asia

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_ASIA_ROSEWOOD_WARS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-11-24-08-01-23


In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 photo, a woman stands near a table made from Vietnamese rosewood at a furniture shop in Beijing. Much of the richly hued, brownish hardwood is being illegally ripped from Southeast Asian forests, then smuggled and turned into Chinese furniture that can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of it also ends up in the finest American guitars, or as billiard cues. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

KOH KONG, Cambodia (AP) -- A Thai force dubbed the "Rambo Army" couldn't stop the gangs, armed with battlefield weaponry, as they scoured the forests. Neither could a brave activist, gunned down when he came to investigate. Nor, apparently, can governments across Southeast Asia.

The root of the conflicts and bloodshed? Rosewood.

The richly hued, brownish hardwood is being illegally ripped from Southeast Asian forests, then smuggled by sea and air to be turned into Chinese furniture that can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of it also ends up in the finest American guitars, or as billiard cues.

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