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Government enacts tougher forest law

The Myanmar parliament has enacted a tougher forest law that threatens violators with up to 15 years in prison in a bid to conserve the country’s fast-dwindling forests.

Under the new law, which was enacted on September 20, forest staff can also be punished for accepting bribes or for being involved in the extraction, transfer or possession of illegally cut logs and forest products.

“After September 20, action will be taken against violators under the new law,” said U Nyi Nyi Kyaw, director general of the Forest Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

Also, fines for minor offences have been raised up to K30 million (US$1869) and trespassers in forests are vacate their premises within one month of being served notice, according to U Zaw Min, deputy director general of the department.

“Major penalties have been raised to make them up to date. Action against illegal logging can now be taken effectively because of this new law,” U Zaw Min said.

He said an education campaign would be carried out to inform the public about the new law.

The law includes nine objectives to ensure long-lasting forest management and sustainable development.

It stipulates that the ministry recognises natural forests and mangrove forests conserved by residents using their own traditional methods with the recommendation of the Nay Pyi Taw Council and the region, state or Myanmar government’s approval.

The new law replaces the 1992 Forestry Law, which provided a penalty of up to seven years in prison for forestry staff caught possessing or transporting illegally cut logs and other forest products.

U Thein Toe, director of the Yangon Region Forestry Department, said the new law will make it easier for forestry personnel to bring violators to court.

“Previously, there were difficulties detaining a suspect during court holidays, but now a case can be opened at a police station. There is no longer any delay,” he said.

Ko Myo Ko Ko, manager of local conservation group Promotion of Indigenous & Nature Together, said more still needs to be done to beef up the country’s forestry law to protect forests.

“Forest conservation is still centralised, and the punishment of errant forestry staff is still light,” he said. “We will wait to see if things improve under the new law. We also have to wait for the bylaw.”

SOURCE: MYANMAR TIMES

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