Forest Department Investigates Sizeable Seizures of Smuggled Timber

By Htun Htun 1 March 2017

RANGOON — The forest department has launched an internal investigation in response to sizeable seizures of smuggled timber since late January.

On Jan. 24, authorities seized more than 30 tons of smuggled teak from two containers at the Myanmar Industrial Port (MIP) in Rangoon. Further investigations led to the seizure of some 170 tons of smuggled padauk found in 11 containers two days later at the same port.

In a chain of subsequent investigations, authorities seized more than 1,500 tons of timber from Hlaingtharyar, Shwepyithar, Dagon Seikkan and South Dagon townships.

On Feb. 24-25 police seized some 50 tons of padauk from seven 12-wheeled trucks on the Rangoon-Mudon highway in Mon State’s Mawlamyine Township. Police arrested 10 people and said they believed that those timber logs were to be smuggled out via seaports in Mon State.

According to the forest department investigation, those logs were transported from Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone in Rangoon.

On Feb. 26, police seized more than 130 tons of padauk and tamalan wood in Kamakawet sub-township in Mudon.

“If staff members are found to be negligent, we will dismiss them. We will sue them if they are found to have accepted bribes or to have been involved in any way,” said U Zaw Min, deputy director general of the forest department.

Complaints have been filed against those involved in smuggling at respective police stations, but three major suspects are still at large, said U Zaw Min.

The value of more than 1,500 tons of timber seized in Rangoon is estimated to be 4.5 billion kyats (about US$3.3 million) on the market, and from April 2016 to the end of Jan. 2017, more than 40,825 tons of smuggled timber was seized, according to the forest department.