Myanmar's forests at risk because of timber smuggling

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According to reports from the Forest Department between April 2013 and March 2014, 45,465 tons of illegal timber were seized by the authorities.

In addition 1,416 trucks, cranes and tractors, 157 tuolaji (Chinese light tractors), 121 motor bikes, 267 motorised boats and Z-craft (pontoons) and 378 sawmill machine parts were among the item seized.

Myanmar Environmental Education Team Chairman Sithu Lwin has commented that despite whatever environmentalist say or hope for or whatever is reported in the media, timber smuggling will continue until there is rule of law in the country.

Another prominent local environmentalist, Ms. Devi Thant Zin was quoted to have said that the penalties for timber smuggling did not seem to be a significant deterrent.

Myanmar's forests are at risk because the Forest Department is understaffed according to Zaw Win Director General of the Forest Department. Zaw Win said the department employed about 7,000 personnel but needed about 15,000 staff to properly oversee the protection of Myanmar's remaining 320,000 square kilometres of forests. 

Local forestry experts say the Forest Department is doing an unenviable task in trying to eradicate illegal activities. Forest rangers are often faced with intimidation from armed gangs in border areas a nd even in central parts of the country, such as Bago and Sagaing regions. The extent of illegal logging is such that it is difficult for the Forest Department to combat this alone.

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