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Forestry officials attempting to confiscate logging equipment and illegally logged timber from a camp in Rangoon Division’s Taikkyi Township were threatened on Saturday by a group of men wielding swords and other weapons.
The township forestry department’s head Maung Maung Thet said he and other officials were in the process of loading confiscated materials onto their trucks in the village of Wunkite when a group of men armed with swords and clubs suddenly appeared and demanded that they return the evidence.
He said the men also threatened to hack the officials with their swords if they took any photos or video footage of the site.
“Officials from the township and local forestry departments entered the village from the west wing around 6:30am on 7 May and found illegal raw timber hidden underneath a haystack,” said Maung Maung Thet.
“We seized 65 teak logs, short and long, and one ironwood log, weighing a total of about 14 tons. As we were preparing to haul those away, a group of men armed with swords and clubs came out of the village and threatened to hack us up if we took any photos or videos of the sting.”
He added the men also took the timber and equipment back. The forestry department has filed a police report to catch the men, who remain unidentified.
Last month, Burma’s new National League for Democracy-led government imposed a total ban on logging in the country, stepping up efforts to curtail rampant deforestation.
A ban on exports of raw timber imposed by Burma’s then quasi-civilian government two years earlier had a limited impact, owing to the heavy involvement of corrupt officials and ethnic armed groups in the trade, most of it catering to demand in neighboring China.
According to Forestry Ministry data, forest cover had shrunk to 47 percent of land area show by 2010, from 58 percent in 1990.