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More Checks to Slow Timber Smuggling to China

Inspection teams and checkpoints will be expanded in major timber smuggling areas in Sagaing and Mandalay regions as well as northern Shan State to seal off smuggling routes from Myanmar to China, according to Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry. Source: Eleven

Pyae Sone Myo, Myanmar director of the forestry department, said its new mission was to expand investigation teams and checkpoints in the two regions and state that border China to combat the smuggling of logs to the northern neighbour – the major destination of illegally felled trees in Myanmar and the rest of Southeast Asia.

The crime has been on the rise for years as the government has only responded to it with surprise checks, officials said.

About 30,000 tonnes of illegal timber was confiscated from April to August this year, officials said.

More than 400,000 tonnes of smuggled wood has been seized over the last decade, but a far larger amount has been illegally exported, the ministry said, putting the amount of illegally exported logs at one million tonnes.

A ban on the export of raw logs imposed on April 1 has not curtailed the illegal trade, Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry Win Tun admitted in Parliament.

Measures against smugglers have been feeble and ineffective, environmentalists have said.

Since the beginning of the fiscal year in April, the government has arrested eight Chinese nationals for smuggling related offences and seized excavators, cranes, boats, more than 100 chainsaws, as well as hundreds of other vehicles allegedly used in the trade.

The United Kingdom-based Environmental Investigation Agency has said that China needs to take more measures to curb illegal smuggling by placing tighter controls over firms in its territory.

“Field studies over the past 10 years by the Environmental Investigation Agency in Indonesia, Myanmar, Russia, Laos, Vietnam, Mozambique, Madagascar and China itself have found China’s demand for timber is driving illegal logging, and that has a damning global consequence: the vital forest ecosystems have been irreparably damaged; incomes in communities relying on those forests have plummeted; and corruption and conflict are on the increase,” it said last month.

It put the value of illegal timber flowing into China at billions of dollars a year, and said Beijing lacked the appropriate laws to curb the inflow.

Instead, the Chinese government is drafting voluntary guidelines for its businesses to follow, EIA said, adding that it doubted such guidelines would be effective, as previous sets of voluntary guidelines had failed.