20,000 tonnes of logs seized in five years, says Kachin minister

Authorities in Kachin State have seized more than 20,000 tonnes of illegal timber near the border with China in the past five years, the state’s minister of forestry and mines said last week.

Radio Free Asia quoted minister U Aung Naing as saying most of the seizures took place in 2014-2015 when nearly 10,600 tonnes of teak and other illegally felled timber was confiscated.

Most of the timber had been confiscated in Bhamo District’s Mansi Township, U Aung Naing told RFA’s Burmese service on February 18.

“In some cases, the timber had been transported from Sagaing Region and Shan State and was on its way to China from the Mansi area where the government has no control,” U Aung Naing said.

He said smugglers had taken advantage of instability in the region, where there has been fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army.

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“But whenever there is stability, our departmental officials and the police are able to patrol the area and stop their operations,” U Aung Naing told the broadcaster.

Myanmar banned the export of raw logs in April 2014, but Chinese loggers are known to make deals with armed ethnic groups and local Tatmadaw officers to ship logs across the border into China’s Yunnan Province.

A court in the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina, last January sentenced 155 Chinese to lengthy prison terms after they were arrested in a raid on an illegal logging camp near the border earlier that month.

The raid resulted in the seizure of 521 logs, 400 logging trucks, back-hoes and other equipment.

After they were sentenced, the Chinese spent less than two weeks in prison before being released under a presidential pardon.

London-based watchdog, the Environmental Investigation Agency, said in a report last September that the illegal export of logs to China was worth US$600 million a year.

The trade was one of the biggest single overland flows of illegal timber in the world, the EIA said.

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