By MAW OO MYAR / KANTARAWADDY TIMES
The Karenni State government is officially permitting 10,000 tons of timber to be sold after being harvested illegally from the eastern bank of the Salween River in the state, according to the natural resources and environment minister.
“We have to make illegal timber become official timber. The Union government told us that this would be the last permission [we could grant]. We don’t want this timber to go to waste,” Karenni State’s minister of natural resources and environmental conservation Te Reh told Kantarawaddy Times.
The logs were cut from lands controlled by armed groups, then seized by the government and transferred to the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, which called an auction. Timber companies then bid on the logs and transported them out of the forest.
According to a forest officer, the wood has been placed in the Kon Thar timber port in the Karenni State capital of Loikaw and is still being processed by the companies that won the government auction.
Minister Te Reh said that the lumber would be sold domestically.
Thae Reh, a parliamentarian for Hpruso Constituency 1, said that illegal timber smuggling remains ongoing in Karenni State because bribery and corruption are widespread.
“I don’t know whether [the government] is really unaware of illegal timber smuggling cases, or if they are working together [with the perpetrators],” he told Kantarawaddy Times. “If they really want to get timber smuggling under control, there are many ways,” he explained, adding that he believed the groups carrying out the logging are largely armed groups that had signed ceasefires with the government and military.
Last year, with official permission from government bodies, the Karenni National People’s Liberation Front—known as the Karenni Border Guard Force—produced 5,000 tons of timber from the eastern bank of the Salween River.
According to reports from the forest department, the authorities seized more than 11,000 tons of timber in Karenni State during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, making it the largest amount of lumber confiscated anywhere in Burma.