Burma

Myanmar Timber Auction Disappoints Cash-Strapped Junta

By The Irrawaddy 2 June 2021

Myanma Timber Enterprise is selling off hardwoods at low prices as few bidders were interested and the timber market is slow after Myanmar’s coup, said industry insiders.

There were few bidders when the state-run firm sold timber at three separate auctions in late May as the military regime sought to acquire hard currency by selling off illegal timber.

Over 10,200 tons of timber were sold for around US$5 million (8.2 billion kyats) at the auctions and industry insiders said the income was low due to limited competition in the bidding.

“There were few companies making bids and bids declined by over 10 percent as the demand fell,” said a Myanma Timber Enterprise source.

Illegal timber seized under the NLD government. / Forest Department

According to industry insiders, Nagani Group Co, Maung Maung Thein Co, United Industrial Co, Win Enterprise Co, MTK Timber Pte Ltd, United Wood Industries Co, Yadi Shin Thant Co, Thein Than Tun Co, Katpana Timber Ltd, National Wood Industries Co, Green Links Pte Ltd bought wood at the auction.

Earlier anti-regime protesters and the National Unity Government (NUG), the shadow government formed to rival the junta, called on timber companies to boycott the auctions.

The NUG’s minister for resources and conservation Tu Hkawng urged the firms to stop cooperating with the military regime and join the civil disobedience movement by not paying for the timber.

Firms bidding for less than 1,000 tons of timber were required to pay a cash deposit of $10,000 (16.4 million kyats), those bidding for between 1,000 and 2,000 tons of timber had to pay $20,000 and those bidding for between 2,000 and 3,000 tons paid $30,000. If they fail to make the payment within 75 days, their deposits and the timber will be seized.

The international Environmental Investigation Agency reported in May that the junta is seeking hard currency by selling off tens of thousands of tons of illegal timber, including some 200,000 tons seized under the National League for Democracy government.

Illegal timber seized under the NLD government. / Forest Department

The regime, which is struggling in the face of international sanctions, also sold off jade, gems and pearls at an auction in April in Naypyitaw, earning over 3.3 billion kyats ($2 million).

The NUG has said it would blacklist the companies and traders that participated in the junta’s auctions of natural resources. It also warned that it would blacklist government employees involved in auctions for the misappropriation of public property.

Illegal logging has risen since the February coup and the Forest Department has been able to do nothing to stop illegal logging, said a source at the department.

“Illegal logging previously declined because the Forest Department gave rewards for information leading to the arrest of illegal loggers. But we can no longer protect our resources,” he said.


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