Why log your own trees when you can destroy another country’s forests? Burma (or Myanmar) can’t really complain about Chinese loggers illegally hauling away environmentally criminal amounts of trees in broad daylight as China — for whatever reason — provides protection and support against all of those pesky international accusations of widespread human rights atrocities. Nevermind that whole thing about Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite all of China’s concern for cultivating and maintaining its rising international status, it’s nice to know that Burma’s oppressive military dictatorship has at least one very concerned friend in the world. Concerned indeed:
”In 2004, more than one million cubic meters of timber, about 95 percent of Burma’s total timber exports to China, were illegally exported from northern Burma to (China’s southern) Yunnan province,” states Global Witness (GW), a non-governmental organisation.
“This is not smuggling of timber, but it is done out in the open and easy to see,” Susan Kempel, assistant campaigner of GW, told the media. “The trade is completely out of control and keeps rising.”
China has environmental laws banning all domestic logging. Regulations from 1999 forbid, in particular, logging of the type of round-wood trees China is greedily harvesting in Burma. China is also party to an agreement signed in 2001, created to encourage governments throughout the region to crack down on illegal logging. That’s not to say that Burma is blameless — 427.81 million dollars, or 15 percent of the country’s total foreign exchange, makes the heavily–sanctioned government reluctant to really crack down on all of the illegal logging happening within its borders. Yet it is China that leads the devastating deforestation, moving deeper into Burma as the 20,000 loggers from Yunnan run out of trees in the northern regions:
The GW expose comes at a time when the Asian region has been earning praise for leading the way in reversing illegal deforestation trends by giving rise to the growth of large scale timber plantations for industrial use.
But China’s voracious appetite for imported timber from natural forests has continued to threaten that record, with the forests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea being part of the supply chain, in addition to the forests in the Kachin State.