The Irrawaddy

Thousands of Seized Logs Smuggled to China, Lawmaker Says

A tractor loads a truck with logs at a logging site in Kachin State.

NAYPYITAW — Up to 2,000 logs cut from champac and pine trees weighing over 1,300 tons seized by authorities in Kachin State’s Chipwi and Tsawlaw townships have been smuggled to China since late May, according to a Union lawmaker.

“We don’t know if all the logs have been smuggled yet. Locals have taken photos of trucks that carried logs. Those logs were last seen in Kangfang, in Chipwi Township, on the Myanmar-China border,” said lawmaker U Lamalei, a member of the Lisu National Development Party who represents Tsawlaw in the Union Lower House.

The unclaimed logs were found and seized by the Tsawlaw Township Forestry Department and police in December.

On May 15, the Kachin State government issued a notice assigning the state’s Forestry Department to sell the logs to authorities of Kachin State Special Region 1 and lawmakers in Tsawlaw for use in regional development projects.

On May 21, however, smugglers started moving the logs by truck to China. The next day, Tsawlaw lawmakers sent a letter to the President’s Office asking it to stop the smugglers, but there was no official reply, said U Lamalei.

The area where the alleged smuggling occurred is under the control of ethnic armed groups and beyond the reach of Myanmar’s civilian government, the lawmaker said. But the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, is deployed there along with local militias and border guard forces, and trucks in the area headed to and from China have to pass through their inspection gates.

“Locals have informed me of the whereabouts of those logs. I asked them to take photos so that I could present them to the president. I telephoned the Tatmadaw troops, the Kachin State government and Forestry Department,” said U Lamalei.

He said the theft showed a complete disregard for the government, lawmakers and Tatmadaw.

U Lamalei urged the President’s Office to identify and take harsh action against the smugglers as well as the people and organizations that assisted them.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.