Illegal Timber Trade Threatens Crucial Forests In Southeast Asia

September 18, 2015 – A murky, illegal timber trade enabled by systemic corruption exists between China and Myanmar and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, making it one of the world’s largest illegal timber schemes, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

At stake are some of the most ecologically important remaining forests in Southeast Asia, EIA says. The report documents how Chinese businesses pay in gold bars for the rights to log entire mountains and smuggle timber out of Myanmar’s conflict-torn state of Kachin.

The stolen timber, primarily high-value species of rosewood and teak, is increasingly being sourced from deeper within Myanmar to feed factories in south and east China.

The trade appeared to have peaked in 2005, when 1.3 million cubic yards of logs crossed the border. A brief hiatus then occurred when Chinese authorities intervened, but the scale is once again nearing peak levels, the EIA says. “At first glance, this cross-border trade looks to be both chaotic and complex, with most of the stolen timber trafficked through Myanmar’s conflict-torn Kachin State,” said Faith Doherty, leader of EIA’s forest campaign.

“But the reality beneath the apparent anarchy is an intricate and structured supply chain within which different players have defined functions and collude to ensure the logs keep flowing.”

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