Mandalay Division Govt Takes Tough Line on Illegal Logging

By Myat Pyae Phyo 19 May 2017

MANDALAY — Mandalay Division government will crack down on illegal logging in the area, said division minister for planning and finance U Myat Thu.

The divisional government is planning to punish smugglers under the Public Property Protection Law and the Public Utilities Protection Law, both enacted in 1947, rather than the Forest Law, as is the current case.

The divisional government had not been able to effectively punish smugglers of smaller quantities of logs and looked at other ways to fight smugglers, said minister U Myat Thu.

“Previously, if we seized less than one ton of logs, we had to hand over the case to the Forestry Department,” explained the minister. “According to the law, smugglers could pay a fine and the logs were returned—some smugglers even handed themselves in to authorities to legitimize the logs.”

Under the new punishment system, the divisional government will levy penalties according to type and amount of timber seized.

It will charge culprits under the 1992 Forest Law for seizures of up to one ton of teak, or up to three tons of other hardwood. Under the Forest Law, the penalty is a fine of 10,000 kyats plus double the value of seized timber. The timber will also be confiscated.

The government will charge under the Public Property Protection Law for seizure of between one to three tons of teak, or between three and five tons of other hardwood.

It will charge under Public Utilities Protection Law for seizure of above three tons of teak, and above five tons of other hardwood.

Both Public Property Protection Law and Public Utilities Protection Law grant no bail and prescribe sentences of up to seven years in prison.

The divisional government announced the laws under which actions are to be taken against illegal logging on April 24, and informed the Mandalay Division Advocate-General Office, and the division’s police force, forestry department, parliament, security and border affairs ministry and general administration departments.

Police Col Tin Zaw Htun of Mandalay Division said: “Under the new system, those who smuggle in large quantities will get harsher penalties—this will effectively deter them.”

Smuggled timber, mainly teak, tamalan and padauk, are mostly seized at three checkpoints in Mandalay Division—16th Mile, Shwekyin and New Sagaing Bridge—as they are smuggled to China through Mandalay, according to Mandalay Division government.

Union minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation U Ohn Win said at the Union Parliament in March that the government seized over 40,000 tons of smuggled timber and took actions against over 7,000 smugglers including 11 foreigners in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko