RANGOON — The Burma Army seized 15 trucks and 402 tons of unattended teak and kino (gum) sawn logs in Nansang Township, southern Shan State, on April 29.
The military has transported the seized wood and vehicles to a “safe place,” according to U Zaw Min, deputy director general of the forestry department, which falls under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
“The sawn logs were seized in a place where ethnic armed groups are active,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Eleven 12-wheeled and three 10-wheeled trucks, a heavy-duty truck, and a crane were seized along with the logs, he said.
The Border Guard Force (BGF)—pro-government militias comprising soldiers who formerly fought for armed rebel groups—and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) are active in the area.
U Zaw Min, however, could not specify which group held the territory where the logs were seized.
“All the vehicles are unlicensed, and there is no mark of ownership on the sawn logs,” he said. “We can only say they are ownerless. If the vehicles had licenses, we would be able to hunt for further clues and find the owner.”
He added that the Burma Army would transfer the logs to the forest department, which would then transfer them to the Myanmar Timber Enterprise. The enterprise will sell the logs at an auction and the proceeds will go into the government’s funds, he explained.
The government’s standard procedure for seized vehicles is also to auction them off and use the funds.
A military column on patrol found the logs and vehicles on the evening of April 29 and arrested a man who was near the trucks before handing him over to the township police station, according to a statement from the commander-in-chief’s office on May 1.
“The forest department will manage the teak according to the law. We can’t give any more details at the moment,” said a police officer of the station.
Teak is smuggled mainly into China from Nansang, said U Zaw Min, and a ton of teak goes for between 5 million and 8 million kyats.
“Chainsaws have been brought into our country in large quantities from China,” he said. “It takes hours to cut a tree with a crosscut saw, but with a chainsaw, you can cut the entire tree into pieces within half an hour.”
The forest department, he added, is too short on staff and weapons to take a hard line on smugglers.
The department charges smugglers according to the 1992 Forest Law, but some courts fine the smugglers instead of jailing them, said U Zaw Min, adding the maximum fine is just 30,000 kyats.