Truck carrying raw logs in Myanmar. Photo courtesy of the EIA.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a shocking new report, Data Corruption: Exposing the true scale of logging in Myanmar, detailing pervasive illegality and controversy connected with forestry in Myanmar.
Based on forestry and trade data, the report exposes widespread illegal logging, timber smuggling, and government corruption within Myanmar. This information from the Myanmar Government points to billions of dollars worth of illegal logging and timber exports each year.
Official export figures for 2000-13 suggest that 72% of log shipments from Myanmar were illegal. This level of illegal logging activity points to large-scale, institutional corruption.
Furthermore, EIA research shows that these crimes have been occurring throughout the country, including in areas fully under the control of the Myanmar Timber Enterprise.
This activity mirrors many of the practices underway in other parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia. Across many countries without strong forest governance, concessions are linked to corruption and other irresponsible forest management practices. Purchasing illegal timber is in direct violation of the Lacey Act and creates great risk not just for the forests, but for customers as well.
The Government of Myanmar has acknowledged these issues by proposing a log export ban to start April 1, 2014, an attempt to curb the vast rate at which the country’s forests have been looted and sold.
We stand by EIA, and encourage the Government of Myanmar to vigorously enforce the log export ban, effective earlier this month, and significantly increase transparency in the management of forest resources.
It’s time for Myanmar to stop favoring established cronies and ensure civil society involvement in the planned restructuring of the Forestry Ministry. Myanmar must investigate and prosecute companies or Government officials involved in illegal logging and timber smuggling.