Police in Sagaing Division say that local authorities have seized more than 800 tons of hardwood timber so far this year as illegal logging operations increase amid a one-year moratorium on logging.
Officials in Sagaing have seized 289 tons of teak, 228 tons of padauk and Burmese rosewood (tamalan), and 298 tons of other types of wood. According to Police Colonel Tint Swe, there has been a noticeable increase in illegal logging activities since the one-year ban went into effect on 1 June.
Despite the massive scale of the problem, police say it is difficult to bring under control because of the remoteness of the areas most affected.
“There is a vast forest area in Sagaing Division, so it is hard to keep an eye on every corner,” said Tint Swe, adding that in many cases, catching the criminals is largely a matter of chance.
“Some of the wood is seized in traffic stops, some we stumble upon in road accidents, and some we get in raids based on tip offs,” he said.
He added that contrary to the belief that most of the stolen wood is being shipped out of the country, much of the demand is coming from within Burma, particularly areas that have already suffered significant deforestation due to excessive logging.
“Our investigation showed that most of the shipments were being transported to areas in Burma with wood shortages, but some was also being transported out of the country to be sold abroad,” he told DVB, noting that both transport trucks and regular passenger vehicles are used to move the illegally logged wood.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, police in Sagaing’s Banmauk Township said that they had discovered 7.9 tons of Burmese rosewood timber, valued at 3.1 million kyat (US$2,600), hidden at an old cemetery near the village of Manyuggyi, about 36 miles west of the town of Banmauk.
Local police are currently working in cooperation with forestry officials to find out who the wood belonged to, sources in the area said.
In recent months there have been a number of violent confrontations between officials and illegal loggers, including one in June that left one forest ranger dead and two others seriously injured in Sagaing’s Shwebo Township.