Officials avoid punishment for illegal woodcutting

Jan 21, 2008 (DVB), Villagers from Aung Lan township are angry that local Union Solidarity and Development Association and village Peace and Development Council officials are getting away with illegally felling teak wood.

A group of woodcutters led by Aung Lan township USDA working committee member U Than Win Oo and Pyin Hla Pin village PDC member U Aung Thaung chopped down two tall teak trees (about one ton of wood) on 12 December, according to one villager.

"It was Than Win Oo’s order to chop down the trees. A ton of teak is now priced at 600,000 kyats at the market," the villager said.

The villagers reported the case to Thayet district PDC and the district forestry administration department but they took no action against the woodcutters, aside from a short inspection of the site.

The villager said that the men were given preferential treatment because of their positions as local officials.

"We saw pieces of wood at U Aung Thaung’s house. But the forestry department let him and the USDA member get away with it," the villager said.

"Just because they are the village administration officials and USDA members, they can get away with cutting down 50 year old teak trees. This is unfair."

Thayet district PDC and the district forestry administration department were unavailable for comment.

Woodcutting is illegal in Burma and can be punished by a prison sentence of between three months and several years.

Reporting by Maung Too

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