News / Asia

Burma's Logging Export Ban Aims to Protect Shrinking Forests

Teak logs are loaded onto a lorry at a logging camp in Pinlebu township, Sagaing division in northern Burma, also known as Myanmar, March 9, 2014.
Teak logs are loaded onto a lorry at a logging camp in Pinlebu township, Sagaing division in northern Burma, also known as Myanmar, March 9, 2014.
Gabrielle Paluch
Burma’s more than $6 billion trade in illegal timber has continued despite attempts to limit logging, according to a new report released by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and a logging export ban set to begin April 1 may not be enough to save the country's shrinking forests.
 
According to official figures, 6.4 million cubic meters of raw timber logs have been exported from Burma, also called Myanmar, since the year 2000. 

Big gap
 
But that number is less than one-third of the amount of timber that global buyers have reported purchasing from the country during the same period, according to the EIA, an independent environmental advocacy group. 
 
The discrepancy points to the booming trade in illegal exports, which EIA estimates are worth nearly $6 billion. The environmental group says its studies indicate that almost half of the wood felled in Burma is illegal, but widespread corruption hides the true extent of the country’s illegal logging. 

Faith Doherty of the EIA calls the government’s lack of transparency over the issue "staggering."

 
A woman walks with children near logs at a timber yard in Rangoon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, Jan. 31, 2014.A woman walks with children near logs at a timber yard in Rangoon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, Jan. 31, 2014.
x
A woman walks with children near logs at a timber yard in Rangoon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, Jan. 31, 2014.
A woman walks with children near logs at a timber yard in Rangoon, Burma, also known as Myanmar, Jan. 31, 2014.
"Well basically you've got a big gap, where has that money gone, and who has it?" Doherty said. "Where is the 6 billion and where is it being spent? Corruption runs deep, from the government all the way down."

Myanmar Timber Enterprise, a military-owned company, oversees all legal timber trade, and grants logging concessions.

Shrinking forests
 
Government data indicate that Burma's forests, some of the largest untouched virgin forests in Asia, shrank by one-fifth, from 58 percent to 47 percent between 1990 and 2010.  
 
Now, as Burma’s economy opens up, the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry is planning to implement new conservation-driven measures to facilitate Burma's entry into U.S. and EU markets. The new measures include a logging export ban that would keep raw, unprocessed timber from leaving the country starting April 1. 
 
"When we start the log export ban the price of wood already is up in Yunnan province they can ask more price, higher price, so it can benefit to them," said Barber Cho, joint-secretary of the Myanmar Timber Merchants Association. 

Export ban
 
The export ban has not yet been signed into law, and is expected to be difficult to enforce considering the majority of the country's wood is traded illegally. Although sawed logs can be exported legally under the ban, wood processing in Burma is substandard due to poor infrastructure and electricity.
 
Influential businessmen with close links to the military are considered to be the main beneficiaries of the illegal logging practices. According to Forest Trends researcher Kevin Woods, these business cronies stand to earn even larger profits after the ban.

"What the Burmese call crony companies haven't lost so much of their businesses, they've lost the monopoly on most of the resource extraction sector," said Woods. "But they're still involved in it heavily. This is especially true for logging."
 
Woods says even with the planned caps on timber harvests, well-connected businessmen have obtained logging areas under the pretenses of palm oil concessions, and are expected to continue logging at unsustainable rates.
 
Environmental groups are urging the government to strictly enforce the export ban, improve transparency in forestry management and prosecute illegal loggers. 
 
The exact size of Burma's remaining forests is contentious. The last comprehensive survey was undertaken in 1953, and although conservationists have done extensive mapping with satellite images in the past few years, observers says the debate over the definition of forest land has led the government to overstate the quantity and quality of forest coverage.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs