Govt to continue fight against illegal timber

The government is planning further crackdowns on the illegal timber trade in northern Myanmar, a senior government official says, and also plans to reduce legal logging in the coming years.

In April 2014, the government banned exports of raw timber to encourage job creation, maximise the value of forestry resources and help to conserve Myanmar’s remaining forest areas.

But Deputy Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry U Aye Myint said at the Myanmar-China Timber Trade Forum on January 14 that the illegal trade remains a huge problem, particularly in Kachin and Shan States, which abut China’s Yunnan Province.

The deputy minister blamed armed ethnic groups for the problem.

“We know these groups get high income from taxes on illegal logging. That undermines the peace-making process and threatens stability and the rule of law,” he said.

He said the government’s priority is to ensure sustainable harvesting of forestry resources. To replace the export of raw logs, it hopes to attract foreign investors to produce finished wood products, first to meet local demand and then for export.

“The government will manage forestry resources for domestic demand only in the future, so logging will be reduced by many tonnes,” he said.

In order to eradicate the illegal timber trade, meanwhile, police and the military have cooperated in cracking down on logging in areas where security is weak. The Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry has also taken action against illegal logging, especially in places with a high arrest rate for illegal loggers.

Earlier this month, 151 illegal loggers, including 132 Chinese nationals and 19 Myanmar citizens, were caught in possession of 680 amphetamine tablets, 20 ticals of raw opium (one tical equals 0.576 ounces) and 12,000 yuan, along with 1229 logs of various kinds of wood in Kachin State. Last year, 17 Chinese nationals and one Myanmar citizen were arrested for illegal logging.

“In the past, foreign illegal loggers were imprisoned under forestry or immigration law, and some were deported after negotiations with the other country concerned,” said U Pyae Sone Myo, a director of the Department of Forestry.

In March 2014, the Environmental Investigation Agency said in a report that 22.8 million cubic metres of timber was harvested between 2000 and 2013, of which almost half was felled illegally. This trade earned an estimated US$8 billion, but the majority of this – about $5.7 billion – was smuggled out of Myanmar through illegal channels.


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