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Burma’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Conservation has told parliament that plans are underway to tackle illegal logging in Kachin State.
Responding to a question from a Kachin MP in the upper house on Monday about local militia groups smuggling timber to China, Minister Ohn Win pointed out that the area in question – Burma’s northernmost region – is remote and has limited rule of law. As such, he said, armed groups are invariably active.
In order to investigate and counter illegal logging activities in the area, Ohn Win said, the central government will need assistance from the regional Kachin assembly, the Burmese army and the police.
“We have drawn up a plan to form a taskforce with personnel from the national police force, general administration, the forestry and immigration departments, with security provided by the Northern Region Military Command to crack down effectively on any logging operations in the area,” he said.
The minister pledged that “effective action” would be taken against those found to be involved in logging operations.
According to official statistics, authorities in the fiscal year 2016-17 have seized 1939.86 tons of illegal wood in Kachin State, along with 117 national perpetrators and 104 pieces of machinery.
A ban on the export of Burmese timber was put into effect on 1 April 2014. Then in April this year, a total ban on logging was enacted by the new Aung San Suu Kyi-led government in a bid to save Burma’s forests. However, it is a temporary ban, effective only until March 2017.
According to Forestry Ministry data, forest cover had shrunk to 47 percent of land area in 2010, compared to 58 percent in 1990.