A TOTAL of 141 civil society organisations (CSOs) sent a formal request to the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MECF) on 14 January, asking the ministry to stop the illegal logging trade along the Myanmar -China border.
The letter was sent to the MECF as well as to a Chinese company called the Blue Moon Fund, which provides financial support to investors in logging enterprises and trade between China and Myanmar. The letter highlighted the illegal logging trade in Kachin and Shan states, calling for better management of vulnerable forests in those areas.
“On top of the inequalities that can arise in the management of natural resources, which can be made much worse by instability in the region, [illegal logging] can cause the current peace negotiations to collapse. It can also be a hindrance to the development of the country,” said Daw Khun Jar, a spokesperson for the Kachin Women’s Network.
Myanmar CSOs have criticised the lack of transparency in discussions between Myanmar and China in 2015 about illegal border crossing and timber trading. “CSOs were not informed about the discussion between the two countries [on the issue of illegal logging]. The issue is linked to resources that Myanmar people depend on and that can have large-scale repercussions for the public. The discussions that were held between the two governments were held behind closed doors,” said Ma Nan, a member of the Shan Farmers Network.
The statement by the 141 CSOs mentions that Chinese investors have begun investing in wood-cutting and wood craftsmanship since exports of timber from Myanmar to China ceased.
The aforementioned CSOs also called for the MECF to recognise the letter, to consider its contents and to open transparent inroads for discussion. Last year, 152 Chinese nationals were caught carrying out illegal logging in Kachin State. Two loggers were sentenced to 10 years in jail, while the rest were sentenced to life imprisonment at the Myitkyina court on 22 July 2015. However, they were later released on 31 July in an amnesty after an official announcement was made by the Chinese embassy in Yangon that the punishments were too severe.
Myitmakha News Agency