Hiatus in timber smuggling from Myanmar to China: EIA


Logging trucks in Kachin State waiting to cross the border into China in April, 2015. Photo: EIA

Logging trucks in Kachin State waiting to cross the border into China in April, 2015. Photo: EIA

Monitoring of key crossing points along the Myanmar-China border by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals a sharp downturn in the volume of illegal timber being smuggled between the two countries during the past six months, the EIA said on its website on 7 March.

In September 2015, EIA released the report Organised Chaos, which documented surging illicit trade in logs via the land border between Myanmar’s Kachin State and China’s Yunnan Province, reaching 900,000 m3 of wood in 2014, worth almost half a billion dollars.

Field observations by EIA since the report launch indicate that the flow of timber across the border has fallen dramatically. One year ago, EIA documented long lines of trucks queuing to carry valuable logs across the border. This year only small amounts of precious woods are being smuggled via backroads on motorbikes or passenger vehicles according to the EIA.

Previous reductions in timber flows have proved temporary. After the trade reached one million m3 a year in 2005, the Yunnan provincial government largely halted the trade and issued regulations promising to only allow legal trade. By 2008, the volume had fallen to just 270,000 m3 a year but the reduction was not sustained and by 2014 trade had returned to peak levels.

During 2015 there were a series of bilateral discussions between forestry officials from Myanmar and China as a precursor to a planned Memorandum of Understanding, yet these meetings reveal divergent views. While Myanmar is calling for cooperation to stop the illegal timber trade, China’s stance is to promote legal trade, including proposals to set up timber trading and processing parks in Myanmar, a move which has so far been rebuffed by its neighbour.

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