photo by jon nicholson

news - Report: Burma Timber Still Smuggled to China

october 21st, 2009

"There has been a sharp decline in timber illegally imported into China from Burma, but smugglers are still supplying Chinese companies that export the wood to Europe, America and throughout the world, an environmental watchdog agency said Wednesday.

The British-based group Global Witness, in a report issued Wednesday, called on Chinese and Burmese authorities to step up efforts to stop illegal logging in northern Burma and crack down on illicit cross-border trade.

'Clearly action taken by authorities in China and Burma to combat illegal logging in Kachin state has had a significant positive impact,' Global Witness quotes its forest policy expert, Jon Buckrell, saying. 'But they should do more to close down the remaining industry, which is almost wholly reliant on the illegal timber supply from Burma.'

After an October 2005 report by Global Witness alleged that vast stretches of virgin forest were being destroyed to feed China's growing demand for wood, Beijing sought to curb the trade by closing border crossings to timber trucks from its southern neighbor. The military government of Burma announced it had suspended timber cutting, transport and shipments to China.

In the 2005 report, Global Witness described the area where the forests were being cut as 'very possibly the most bio-diverse, rich, temperate area on earth'--a place home to red pandas, leopards and tigers. It said that China depended largely on imported lumber from Malaysia, Russia, Burma, Indonesia and Gabon after it banned the felling of its own old-growth trees in 1998.

China became the biggest foreign investor in Burma this past year, and is the closest ally of its military regime, which is shunned by the West because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

The new report, 'A Disharmonious Trade,' said trade data showed that imports of logs and sawed wood from Burma to China fell by more than 70 percent between 2005 and 2008, confirming a trend found by the group's own field investigations.

But smugglers use 'bribery, false papers, transportation at night and avoiding checkpoints' to get around the restrictions on sending the wood to China, the report said.

China's Foreign Ministry and Burma's Forestry Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment."

MORE: "Report: Burma timber still smuggled to China" (AP)

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