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Myanmar Arrests Dozens of Chinese for Illegal Logging

Man secures teak logs to a vehicle in a logging camp at Pinlebu township, Sagaing, northern Myanmar, March 5, 2014.

More than 100 foreign nationals, believed to be mostly Chinese citizens, have been arrested for illegal logging and other alleged crimes in northern Myanmar, also known as Burma.

On Monday Myanmar military officials said 112 foreign nationals and 20 Myanmar citizens were taken into custody, although it did not specify a date for the arrests. Authorities say they have also seized 436 logging trucks, 14 pickup trucks loaded with logs, stimulant drugs, raw opium and Chinese currency.

Kachin State locals tell VOA's Burmese service most of the detainees are Chinese.

Local Kachin leader, Aung Kham, says the illegal logging could not have happened unless the foreigners had deals with government and ethnic rebel forces.

“The illegal logging have place both at north and south of the Kachin State along the Irrawaddy River," he said. "Most of them are Chinese nationals. They bribe the authorities there to get document allowing logging in the area. They can work here only if they have good relations with all armed forces in the region."

The military says among items seized is a document in which a Kachin rebel officer gives permission for illegal logging in the area.

VOA has been unable to reach officials with the Kachin Independence Army for a response.

The Chinese government has not yet commented on the arrests.

Illegal logging is widely considered a major problem in Myanmar, where ethnic rebel groups have been fighting the government for decades.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.