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Risk Score
92.0
Risk Profile
Higher Risk
Conflict State
Yes
Log Export Restriction
Yes
Other Timber Export Restrictions
No
Import Regulation
No
Legality Risks Click for details on legality risks

On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) led by Commander-in-Chief Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing ousted the democratically-elected National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government in a military coup. The political situation remains fluid and risks jeopardizing the last decade’s efforts at advancing federal democracy and forest sector reform. Forest management in natural Reserved Forests is exclusively conducted by the Forest Department, while the harvesting and extraction of timber is the responsibility of the state-owned enterprise (SOE), the Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE). Both of these departments fall under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC). Until 2019, the MTE was permitted to retain 55 percent of profit from timber sales in their own “other account,” estimated at more than $2 billion since 2012. This money is gone, without any public accounting.

In 2019, the government confirmed that the “other account” had been closed and all MTE profits must be transferred to the state treasury. Within the context of the recent military coup, there is an elevated risk of illegal logging and that the revenues from state sanctioned logging could again move ‘off-budget’, and the forestry industry more broadly could be used to finance violations of human rights in Myanmar.

In response to the coup, the US, EU, UK, Switzerland, and Canada passed sanctions on entities involved in the Myanmar forestry sector that effectively constitute a ban on all trade in timber products. All five markets do not prohibit the trade in timber directly. Rather, they have sanctioned the MTE. Because the MTE is the only source of legal timber in Myanmar, sanctions on the MTE are a de facto ban on any trade in Myanmar timber. All have also sanctioned military-linked conglomerates, including the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and its subsidiaries, thus prohibiting the use of the MEC-owned port of Alhone (Yangon). The EU and Switzerland have also sanctioned the Forest Products Joint Venture Corporation Ltd. (FPJVC), which is majority government owned. The UK and Canadian sanctions regimes also require businesses operating in the UK or Canada (regardless of the business’ own nationality) to conduct due diligence to ensure that they are not violating sanctions.

  • There are well-publicized legality risks, especially in Myanmar’s high value teak supply chains, including risks that timber sales are funding armed conflict. The situation has deteriorated and remains fluid following a military coup in February 2021.  
  • Independent NGO reports and enforcement actions against European companies sourcing from Myanmar highlight the risks associated with teak sourced from Myanmar.
  • Following a military coup in February 2021, the political situation risks jeopardizing the last decade’s efforts at advancing federal democracy and forest sector reform, which makes the timber legality context unclear.
  • While it may be possible to track certain batches of timber back to the area of harvest if all relevant documents are made available, this has been very challenging for industry. The recent military coup, unclear political situation, overall status of forest management, human rights violations, and continued armed conflict suggest that there is a high risk that timber from Myanmar has been illegally harvested. 

Read more by downloading the Myanmar Timber Legality Risk Dashboard here.

Latest Updates Click for latest news from Myanmar
May 25, 2024
Myanmar’s Teak Surge: Why Italy is EU’s Smuggling Hotspot

The Irrawaddy River is a flashpoint for conflict timber, with more than 100 tons—and sometimes up to 300 tons—of teak and other species leaving Myanmar ports every week.

The teak is then traded into Western Markets (including Italy, teak’s entry point into the EU) via China, India and Indonesia, with proceeds used to fuel both sides of the conflict.

Yesterday, Mynamar officials announced that more than 1,600 tons of teak (more than 250 tonnes a week) had been confiscated over the past six weeks, in a major escalation in the trade across borders. And that is just the timber, deemed “illegal” by the junta-controlled government – with the hidden trade in teak booming amongst the junta’s allies.

More...
May 13, 2024
Ta’ang armed group unveils trade point on Shan State’s border with China

Metals, silicon, and timber are among the resources from northern Shan State being exported to China through a gate reopened by the ethnic armed organisation in Namkham Township. Several other crossings remain contested or closed. The ethnic armed organisation’s customs department unveiled the post on April 29,  although neither the TNLA nor China have released an official statement acknowledging the operations of the trading site.

 

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May 4, 2024
Assam Rifles clarifies Myanmar-Indian border processes for timber

Alittle bit of background information on Myhanmar – India border controls on timber trade: A statement by the Public Relations Officer, Headquarters IGAR (South) stated, ‘In the absence of the Free Movement Regime (FMR), any movement of any good including timber across the IMB is illegal.

Timber originating from Myanmar is subject to stringent regulations mandating passage through the Integrated Check Post, Moreh to fulfil custom duties.

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May 4, 2024
AR issues rebuttal against harassment by local timber transporters

Assam Rifles issued a rebuttal to allegations of harassment by local timber transporters, emphasizing compliance with regulations and their commitment to upholding directives from the Central and State government regarding border security and cross-border trade.

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May 1, 2024
EU extends Myanmar junta sanctions for another year

The European Union (EU) announced on 26 April 2024 that sanctions on organisations and people associated with the Myanmar junta would be extended for another year.

Amongst the organisations included on the EU sanctions list renewal are:

The military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (MEHL), Myanmar Gems Enterprise, Myanmar Timber Enterprise, and the Veterans Organization, along with private companies such as Htoo Group, IGE Company, Asia Sun Group, Dynasty International Group, Royal Shune Lei and Sky Aviation Star Sapphire.

Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), No. 1 and 2 Mining Corporation, the Office of Adjutant General, Directorate of Defence Industries, Directorate of Military Procurement also had sanctions against them renewed.

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March 22, 2024
Anti-junta administrators resign in resistance-controlled town, protesting NUG’s logging ban policies

Local people in Maw Luu, prevented from harvesting timber by an NUG ban, have protested by blocking logging trucks that the resistance administration team allowed to travel through the town based on a prior arrangement

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March 19, 2024
Seizure of half million USD worth of timber seized at India - Myanmar border

Assam Rifles troops seized a significant amount of timber worth Rs 4.88 crore (about US$ 587,840) at the Manipur-Myanmar border. 50,603 cubic feet (CFT), is believed to have originated in Myanmar.

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March 16, 2024
Post-coup environmental degradation threatens Myanmar’s stability

Following the military coup, rare earth mining has experienced a boom in Myanmar’s north-eastern region. The region is under the control of a Border Guard Force that falls under the military’s chain of command. There are approximately 2700 rare earth mining collection pools scattered across nearly 300 locations, covering an area roughly the size of Singapore.

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February 29, 2024
Myanmar is delisted from the EITI, due to stalled implementation and deteriorating conditions for stakeholder engagement.

The EITI delisted Myanmar from the EITI due to  political instability,  conflict, and deterioration for space for civil society engagement, all of which make it unfeasible to uphold key aspects of the EITI, including multi-stakeholder governance and data disclosure.  Moreover, Myanmar’s EITI multi-stakeholder group has been dissolved, and there has been no independently verified information published on the extractive sector in the last three years.

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February 28, 2024
Myanmar’s controversial timber trade persists, despite Western sanctions

Illegal timber from Myanmar  continues to be imported into Europe and the US despite Western sanctions. In Europe, Italy continues to stand out as a destination for teak and other controversial forest products. Between January and October 2023, Italian companies imported more Myanmar wood products than any other European country — about $3.3 million worth — for use in furniture and construction, according to Italian government data analyzed by the national timber trade association FederlegnoArredo.

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February 26, 2024
Organized crime on the rise in Myanmar as resilience wanes

However, as the 2023 Global Organized Crime Index shows, organized crime in Myanmar has significantly worsened, to the point that the country currently has the highest levels of organized criminality in the world. The link to non-renewable natural resources is mentioned, but the issue touches on illegal timber harvesting as well.

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February 26, 2024
Not waiting for the government, Myanmar’s Karen people register their own lands

Amid decades-long armed conflict with Myanmar’s central government, Indigenous Karen organizations and leaders are mapping and documenting their ancestral lands in a self-determination effort — without seeking government approval.

 

Locals receive land title certificates that provide security to villagers, giving a sense of inheritance rights and protection against land-grabs from the government, megaprojects and extractive industries.They use geographic information systems (GIS), computer tools and systems to interpret, document and agree on lands and forest data. Participatory methods with local communities and supporting organizations have been used to map more than 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) of land, which includes reserved forests and wildlife sanctuaries.

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February 20, 2024
US Government Issues Supplemental Business Advisory for Myanmar

On January 26, 2024, the US Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, and Labor, and the Office of the US Trade Representative published a Supplemental Business Advisory (“Supplemental Advisory”) intended to highlight additional high-risk sectors and activities and update guidance for individuals, businesses, financial institutions, and other persons (e.g., investors, consultants, non-governmental organizations, due diligence service providers) regarding continued risks of doing business in Myanmar/Burma.  The Supplementary Advisory incorporates significant sanctions developments against Myanmar since the previous advisory on similar topics was issued in 2022.

 

The timber sector is listed as “of concern” with a summary of risks identified in the Advisory, as well as risk mitigations recommended by the Advisory.

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January 24, 2024
18 arrested for smuggling timber in Myanmar

From Jan. 15 to Jan. 21 he authorities apprehended the suspects, along with the seizure of over 83.29 tons of timber, 10 vehicles and machines. The confiscated timber included over 32.46 tons of teak, over 16.42 tons of hardwood and over 34.41 tons of other types of timber.

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January 15, 2024
Status of Myanmar exports and challenges

ITTO reports on status of Myanmar timber exports and challenges meeting international legality verification requirement despite reform efforts.

 

Due to expanding conflict areas, some forests have become inaccessible to forest management.  Harvesting from the northern natural forests is no longer possible and this has led to a decline in teak log availability.

 

There’s few  orders for teak products from the EU and USA, primarily due to sanctions against the Myanma Timber Enterprise, the sole supplier of logs to millers.

Despite timber from both government and private plantations being allowed for export, there are no signs of log exports from private plantations. It is assumed that this is due to the private plantations being too young for harvest as most were planted around 2006.

 

Harvestable timber from government plantations is traded only by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise which is subject to international sanctions.

 

The Myanmar Forest Certification Committee (MFCC) has prioritised forest certification for private plantations.

 

Despite the 2021 suspension of the PEFC-Endorsement process, the Myanmar Forest Certification Standard is interested in certifying private plantations.

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December 29, 2023
Shrinking civil space and persistent logging: 2023 in review in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia has never been an easy place for activists, but a worrying trend emerged over the course of 2023 that saw environmental and Indigenous activists increasingly placed in the crosshairs of authoritarian governments as a result of their activism.

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December 28, 2023
Myanmar seizes over 95 tons of illegal timber in a week

From Dec. 18 to Dec. 24 this year, the authorities confiscated 10.45 tons of teak, 37.57 tons of hardwood and 47.78 tons of other types of timber in the country, the report said. A total of 14 offenders were charged in connection with the cases, along with the seizure of six vehicles and machines, it said.

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December 28, 2023
Shrinking civil space and persistent logging: 2023 in review in Southeast Asia

Mongabay presents a short summary of status of illegal logging and forest governance in SE Asia.

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December 14, 2023
Illegal logging in national park

[using google translate]

This national park was designated as a nature conservation area in 2017, yet timber smugglers have been coordinating with armed groups.

 

According to the local, illegal loggers must pay 40,000 MMK per ton for the production permit to Brigade 2 of the KIA. For transportation, 500,000 MMK per timber truck at military junta checkpoints.

They use large machinery to clear the roads leading to the national park, felling trees during the day and transporting them at night via Myitsone and Myitkyina roads. About 20 to 50 timber-loaded vehicles pass through daily.

More...
November 21, 2023
Trase: Brazilian beef exports and deforestation

Trase data shows that the amount of cattle deforestation and land conversion increased from 590,000 hectares (ha) in 2016 to 948,700 ha in 2020 – a 60% increase – while the total area of pasture actually decreased from 164 Mha in 2016 to 162.5 Mha in 2020, and total beef production also decreased from 10.2 million tonnes in 2016 to 9.8 million tonnes in 2020. The use of unproductive cattle ranching for land speculation may explain this apparently contradictory trend. This suggests that cattle farming, whether for beef production or land speculation, continues to be the main driver of deforestation and conversion.

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November 19, 2023
Myanmar insurgent groups key to forest & climate protection

Myanmar has the largest area under forests in mainland Southeast Asia, although according to the World Bank, its forest area had decreased from 60% in 1990 to 43% by 2020. Caused by logging and mining, these processes have accelerated since the February 2021 coup that brought a military junta back to power. In the decades since the country gained independence from Britain in 1948, both Myanmar’s military and its many ethnic insurgent groups have been involved in logging and mining to finance themselves.

 

Veteran Myanmar researcher Ashley South – a strong supporter of many ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) in the country – says some of the armed groups are now moving towards forest protection, while the junta is not.

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November 3, 2023
Myanmar military using foreigners including Thais as human shields

Myanmar’s military junta has used foreigners including Thais as human shields in northeastern Shan State, where fighting the junta and an ethnic alliance is escalating, according to The Irrawaddy online.

 

Apart from Thais, other foreign nationals were those from Nepal, Ethiopia and Laos. “The army is using them as forced labor to build bunkers, dig trenches, and carry timber. They are practically human shields.”

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November 1, 2023
Hidden in plain sight Counting the cost of environmental crime

Previous studies estimate the annual value of environmental crime at between US$110 billion and US$281 billion, making it one of the most lucrative criminal economies in the world, but few of the proceeds of this market benefit the development of communities in near the source markets but are instead transferred abroad and laundered into the global financial system.

 

Hidden in plain sight looks at illicit financial flows (IFFs) related to three specific illicit environmental flows: timber trafficking from Myanmar to China; gemstone trafficking from Mozambique to Thailand; and abalone trafficking from South Africa to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). It seeks to quantify the overall scale of IFF flows by analyzing informal flows, trade flows and financial systems – the three main channels by which IFFs are enabled, held and moved.

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October 28, 2023
Australia’s trade with Myanmar military junta growing, despite sanctions, and through China and India

Mon Zin, a founding member of the Global Myanmar Spring Revolution, told the Green Left and Socialist Alliance forum that timber and wood imports increased between 2020–21.

 

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October 26, 2023
US ‘perfect playground’ for laundering money linked to environmental crimes, new report finds

The report by the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition, published on Oct. 26,  said that “critical gaps” in the U.S. anti-money laundering system are vulnerable to exploitation by criminal groups, including those behind the destruction of the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

 

FACT’s analysis focuses on forestry crimes and illegal mining in Peru and Colombia.  The report also summarizes how U.S. importers sidestep the law by not trading directly with the blacklisted Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) but instead with non-sanctioned Myanmar exporters and middlemen based in Singapore, Thailand and other third countries.

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October 24, 2023
Myanmar Junta Abandons Timber Barge After Resistance Attacks

A Myanmar junta flotilla abandoned a stranded barge on Monday after five days of resistance attacks in Mawlaik Township, Sagaing Region, according to resistance groups.

Last Wednesday, five barges carrying timber and around 100 troops stopped on the Chindwin River near the Yu tributary in Mawlaik Township, after a barge loaded with logs became stuck on a sandbank, according to Mawlaik People’s Defense Force (PDF).

 

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October 13, 2023
Have we reached peak teak?

Teak decking has long been regarded a superyacht’s crowning glory, but the controversy around “conflict wood” from Myanmar forced the industry to come up with ethical and sustainable alternatives. Marilyn Mower speaks to the pioneers leading a new wave of deck innovation.

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September 14, 2023
Myanmar's forests fall victim to conflict

Environmental groups curb activity even as illegal logging increases. Both mining and logging activities have intensified under military rule, and conservation efforts involving Indigenous communities have declined.

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August 28, 2023
Children of Notorious Ex-Myanmar Junta Minister Continue Corrupt Legacy

Though he has been dead for nearly a decade, long-serving military regime official Aung Thaung’s corrupt legacy lives on in the junta-allied business empires run by his children and their families and associates. An example is the IGE Group was cofounded by Nay Aung and his business partner.

 

IGE was sanctioned by the EU in February 2022 for its close ties to the current regime’s leadership.

Nay Aung expanded his business to timber, and oil and gas production, in 2001, establishing the Myanmar Rice Trading Company (MRT), which has since become the largest exporter of Myanmar timber.

According to a report by Washington-based environmental organization Forest Trends published in March 2022, MRT is a key timber exporter in Myanmar, and was the biggest timber exporter in 2014. Despite that, the company has only paid a small amount of tax to the government, the report said. Timber is normally sold by state-owned timber company Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) at auctions, but MRT is one of a select group to which MTE sells directly.

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August 20, 2023
Myanmar teak continues to be traded around the world
Shirsho Dasgupta of the Miami Herald and Timo Schober, a German-based journalist who works at Papertrail Media have delved deep into the trade that continues to see valuable teak trees felled in the forests of Myanmar and shipped around the world.
Check out the Insight Myanmar podcast where they discuss their investigation into this trade:
https://insightmyanmar.org/complete-shows/2023/7/31/episode-182-the-dark…

 

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July 18, 2023
Myanmar Junta’s Timber Enterprise Eyeing Secret Bank Accounts to Bypass Sanctions

State-owned timber company Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE) is working to open a secret bank account at the state-owned Myanmar Economic Bank (MEB), following United States sanctions against two other junta-run banks.

 

“As they can no longer use the MFTB and MICB, MTE is planning to make transactions through the MEB. It will be able to make transactions by linking through 15 foreign banks,” said the source.

 

The secret bank account at MEB will be linked with banks in Singapore, Thailand, Japan, India and China for international transactions, and with local banks such as AYA Bank, Co-operatives Bank (CB), and A Bank for domestic transactions, according to the source. The Irrawaddy could not independently verify this information.

 

Despite the sanctions imposed on MTE by Western countries, Myanmar timber is still being exported to these countries following the coup, US-based environmental group Forest Trends reported last year.

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June 3, 2023
Is teak furniture immoral? Why we no longer recommend our former favorite

While this article is a basic summary of recent reports on the trade of Myanmar teak and sanctions, it also lists a few countries where some FSC-certified or “ethical teak” can be found (Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Costa Rica, Brazil, Columbia)

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June 2, 2023
Huge increase in transnational crime and synthetic drugs in SE Asia requires cross-border cooperation

Thailand, Laos and Myanmar are at the frontlines of illicit trade in Asia dominated by transnational organized crime syndicates.

 

The trafficking in illegal narcotics, precursor chemicals, timber and wildlife, people and illicit goods across Southeast Asia is being tackled thanks to the support of the specialized UN agency focusing on drugs and crime.

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May 23, 2023
EU Member states continue to import Myanmar teak despite sanctions

During a virtual meeting of the European Commission’s expert group on protecting and restoring forests on May 4, a representative from the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre presented data showing that 13 EU member states had imported Myanmar timber products, which were likely to be teak, in the past year. Italy, France, Poland and Spain topped the list, with Italy importing an amount estimated to be worth more than $20 million since March 2022, according to Eurostat.

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May 23, 2023
Myannar-India Trade: Operationalisation of Sittwe port and the way forward

With opening of the new Sittwe port on May 9, 2023, located at the Kaladan river delta, trade between Myanmar and India is likely to get a boost. Exports from India to Myanmar through this new shipping route may include construction materials such as cement, steel and bricks, among others, whereas India’s imports from Myanmar would be rice, timber, fish and seafood.

 

The new port opens an alternate sea route for the north-eastern part of India through Myanmar.

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May 16, 2023
US imports of ‘blood teak’ from Myanmar continue despite sanctions

A new report from EIA names the top 12 US-based companies that have imported teak from Myanmar since the start of the coup. Two companies, East Teak Fine Hardwoods and J Gibson McIlvain, have what the group says is a duopoly on Myanmar teak imports in the US, making up 88% of all teak imports over the past two years with more than 1,600 tons of imports combined.

 

The companies did not respond to requests for comment from the EIA or the Guardian. J Gibson McIlvain said the company has relationships with mills and exporters, allowing it to know where the timber is coming from.

Many US companies that import teak from Myanmar use what is called the “stockpile narrative”, the EIA says, in which companies say the teak was harvested and bought from other Myanmarese companies, which themselves bought the teak from MTE before the coup in February 2021. The EIA says the chance that legal timber harvested and sold before the coup being mixed with illegal timber “is extremely high”. And, it says, the idea that there is still timber in the legal “stockpile” exported from the country “is highly dubious”.

 

Full EIA report available https://eia-international.org/wp-content/uploads/EIA-Acts-of-Defiance-2-FINAL.pdf

Also featured on U.S. traders flouting sanctions on buying Myanmar teak, report says (mongabay.com)

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May 16, 2023
US timber traders help support Myanmar's brutal junta by skirting laws to import illicit teak (new EIA report)

EIA names 12 major American timber firms importing teak from Myanmar since the start of the 2021 military coup.

The companies are named in EIA’s new report Acts of Defiance II – US companies break sanctions to import teak from Myanmar.

 

A redacted version of the report was published in December 2022, with the identities of the 12 provided separately to US authorities, including the Department of State and enforcement agencies, to give them opportunity to investigate and act.

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May 16, 2023
US feds move to curb trade in timber used by some Florida boat suppliers

The Justice Department has announced the creation of an inter-agency task force to combat transnational and domestic trade in illicit wood, including some used by Florida suppliers of the yacht industry.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article275291346.html#storylink=cpy

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May 15, 2023
Award-winning, Indigenous peace park dragged into fierce conflict in Myanmar
  • Two years since the Feb 1, 2021 military coup in Myanmar, Indigenous activists continue their struggle to protect the Salween Peace Park, an Indigenous Karen-led protected area, from conflict.
  • The park was subject to military-led deadly airstrikes in March 2021 and renewed violence in the vicinity of the park continues to force people to flee their homes into the forest.
  • The Salween Peace Park was launched in 2018 and encompasses 5,485 square kilometers (nearly 1.4 million acres) of the Salween River Basin in one of Southeast Asia’s most biologically rich ecoregions.
  • With many examples around the world, peace parks seek to preserve zones of biodiversity and cultural heritage using conservation to promote peacebuilding. The SPP includes more than 350 villages, 27 community forests, four forest reserves, and three wildlife sanctuaries.
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March 29, 2023
Reporters share behind-the-scenes stories from Deforestation Inc.

In March 2023, the ICIJ and 39 media partners published Deforestation Inc., a global investigation that exposed flaws in environmental auditing and certification programs intended to promote responsible forestry and combat illegal logging and deforestation. For this month’s episode of the Meet the Investigators podcast, we recorded a special live panel featuring reporters who had visited ravaged forests, tracked shipments of timber around the world, and trawled through corporate documents, leaked files and more to uncover the many ways in which a system designed to protect the environment, consumers and investors is failing with concerning frequency.

 

The situation in Myanmar, Romania, Indonesia, Germany is featured, as well as with the extent and nature of problems with falsified documents and  certification systems more broadly.

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March 27, 2023
FSC focuses on the yachting industry for more sustainable forestry

A new industry initiative launched by the FSC certification scheme, the Forest Stewardship Council, is focusing on the impact of the yachting industry on the world’s forests and promoting sustainable practices.

 

FSC advisor states that

We cannot talk about this industry without talking about the sector’s historical dependence on teak from Myanmar. Yacht decking has shown itself to be the Achilles’ heel of the industry. The use of natural teak is not just justified by the luxurious look of the timber, but by the extreme technical quality of the wood.”

With this new initiative, FSC intends to push forward to find responsible alternatives. The yachting industry is in the process of adapting – but this also presents its own challenges. Fast innovation is required, innovation that can create new types of decking that is both durable and able to meet the industry’s aesthetic requirements.

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March 27, 2023
Illegal logging surges in Myanmar’s conflict zones, with sanctions pushing smugglers to open new routes to India

Logging has accelerated amid the post-coup conflict, with sanctions pushing smugglers to open new routes to India, while activists and locals accuse both the military and resistance groups of profiting off the plunder.

 

Fighting has broken out across Myanmar since the military overthrew the elected National League for Democracy, with the worst violence reported in Sagaing Region, where anti-regime People’s Defence Forces have carved out rural strongholds. Based on interviews with residents, Frontier understands illegal logging has surged in Kani, Yinmabin, Kantbalu, Indaw and Banmauk townships in Sagaing, as well as in parts of Bago Region, where the junta has more control.

 

Local environmental activists, PDF members and ordinary residents told Frontier that most of the timber is being smuggled to China and, more recently, India.

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March 8, 2023
How Florida wood traders navigate ban on repressive regime’s rare teak: Tree DNA tests

Florida companies Teakdecking Systems and Florida Teak imported more than half a million pounds of Burmese teak from Myanmar despite U.S. economic sanctions against the Myanma Timber Enterprise, the state firm that de facto controls the country’s timber sector.

 

Both tout certifications from Singapore-based Double Helix Tracking Technologies, a third-party company that checks whether the sourcing of teak is clean.

 

Double Helix is still verifying shipments from Myanmar but is unable to do DNA tests anymore and business is dwindling, Thomas said. The service it offers now is to check that private traders bought their teak from Myanma Timber Enterprise prior to the sanctions and to ensure that the teak did not subsequently pass through any facility whose majority-owners were a sanctioned entity before shipping.

 

Sanctions experts told the Herald that traders are taking a huge risk if they are importing teak from Myanmar post-sanctions, regardless of when the order was placed and how it was stored and transported.

 

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March 7, 2023
From Taiwan to Turkey and beyond: How Deforestation Inc exposed the teak trade from Myanmar

Deforestation Inc. reporters in a dozen countries investigated weak government efforts and loopholes allowing companies to keep trading Myanmar teak, a natural resource controlled by the military junta.

 

The Deforestation Inc. investigation by ICIJ and its 39 partners found that timber traders in three continents have continued to import Myanmar teak by the ton to supply shipbuilders and furniture manufacturers around the world, while consumers may be unwittingly financing the junta’s repressive campaign.

 

The reporters visited boat shows in Fort Lauderdale, Amsterdam and Paris to learn about the international teak market. They interviewed timber traders in 11 countries and pored over documents leaked from Myanmar’s tax agency and shared with ICIJ by Justice for Myanmar, a human rights group, U.K.-based news outlet Finance Uncovered and Distributed Denial of Secrets, a data transparency group.

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Cases from Slovenia, Croatia, USA, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Turkey, Taiwan, France, and India are included.

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March 4, 2023
Teak for yachts strips exotic forest, boost harsh regime. It's shipped here despite U.S. ban

Teak from Myanmar (formerly called Burma) is coveted by yacht owners and builders for its pliancy and water-resistance, but it has a dark side: The country of 54 million is run by a military junta that has so far killed at least 3,000 and arrested more than 19,000 civilians, according to human rights groups. The nation has descended into civil war.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/article272198338.html#storylink=cpy

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March 3, 2023
The IndianExpress interviews Indian traders on the challenges of importing from Myanmar

The Indian Express spoke to traders located in Myanmar and India who say the conflict on the ground and frequent change of regulations by Myanmar authorities pose challenges. The article summarizes why Myanmar teak is so highly prized, international laws and regulations that are prohibiting the sale in Myanmar timber products, and loopholes that could endanger India’s exports of timber products manufactured from Myanmar wood.

 

Traders claim that some Myanmar wood was purchased before the 2021 coup. Trade data also reveals some Indian companies simply put “Asia” in the column for origin of the wood, without specifying which country. Traders also write “imported” on transit passes in the space for declaring where the teak was purchased from.

 

Traders interviewed noted that their buyers were free to do DNA testing on the hardwood for traceability of origins. However, this science has not been introduced in India either by timber traders or by police forces, for instance, as evidence against smugglers who are frequently caught along the Indo-Myanmar border with stolen truck consignments.

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March 2, 2023
Western firms certified as socially responsible trade in Myanmar teak linked to the military regime

Deforestation Inc., a cross-border investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), shines a light on the roles of intermediaries  and certification organizations n the widely condemned trade in Myanmar teak. Conducted with 39 media partners, the probe shows how environmental auditors and so-called certification firms have given their seal of approval to products linked to deforestation, logging activities in conflict zones and other abuses to enter markets all over the world.

 

The inquiry into Myanmar’s continued teak trade is based on leaked files from Myanmar’s tax agency, publicly available trade data and interviews with teak traders in 11 countries. The confidential files ー most from 2021 and 2022 ー were shared with ICIJ by Justice for Myanmar, a human rights group, U.K.-based news outlet Finance Uncovered and Distributed Denial of Secrets, a data transparency group.

 

ICIJ’s investigation found at least 10 teak traders and retailers besides J. Gibson McIlvain holding green certifications while buying from Myanmar suppliers. These certification displays continued after some European authorities began restricting the import of Myanmar wood in 2017 and after the EU and the U.S. imposed sanctions in 2021; the sanctions prompted certification companies to stop allowing the use of their logos on Myanmar wood or by the country’s forest programs.

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February 24, 2023
Netherlands' criminal convictions under the EU Timber Regulation for bringing illegal Myanmar into the Netherlands via Czech Republic

According to this blog from the Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA), details of the convictions of one company and two individuals at the District Court of Amsterdam on 12 December 2022 have only recently been released in public court documents, with their names redacted, which confirm criminal convictions for importing teak from Myanmar into the Netherlands via the Czech Republic in breach of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) Article 4 and 6 due diligence provisions.

 

In 2018, the NVWA issued a warning to one of the Dutch companies involved which had been importing Myanmar teak into the Netherlands. The NVWA determined that, as the economic operator, its due diligence system for its imports of Myanmar teak failed to meet the due diligence obligations of the EUTR.

In response, according to an investigation carried out by the Dutch Prosecution service, the now-convicted directors set up a company, Fairwind Trading sro, in the Czech Republic and then transferred orders of Myanmar teak to this entity to avoid the detection of NVWA – while implemented the rejected due diligence system.

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February 20, 2023
Locals accuse NUG-affiliated groups of complicity in timber smuggling in Sagaing Resistance and administrative chapters under the NUG reject the allegations, saying that they are intercepting logging trucks and fining those involved in the illegal trade

Locals in the Sagaing Region townships of Indaw and Banmauk claim that groups operating under the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) have been accepting bribes from smugglers attempting to move illicit timber through northern Myanmar.

 

They accused the officials and members of People’s Defence Teams—known locally as Pa Ka Pha—and People’s Administration Teams of taking payment from domestic and Chinese companies to allow them to harvest teak and transport the logs through their territory.

 

A spokesperson for the Indaw Pa Ka Pha denied accepting bribes from anyone in the logging industry. He told Myanmar Now that the trucks in question were intercepted before reaching the border and fined in accordance with the NUG’s legal directives, before being turned over to the township’s Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee, also under the same government.

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Forest Trends notes that locals also report that logging companies are paying bribes to other groups as well. Enforcement control in these areas is likely difficult due to the armed conflict and unclear delineation of roles and responsibilities between various parties. With NUG’s limited power and control, it is not clear how NUG cannot stop the trade of illegally sourced timber; several Ethnic Armed Organizations are reportedly already collecting fines on transport trucks.

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February 2, 2023
Military places restive areas of Myanmar under martial law

Martial law was declared in several areas a day after authorities announced that a state of emergency has been extended throughout the country which is wracked by violence.
State-run MRTV television broadcast an announcement by the State Administration Council (SAC), imposing martial law in 37 townships across eight of the country’s 14 Regions and States.

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October 25, 2022
Myanmar blacklisted by financial watchdog to curb military junta's exploitation of natural resources

Since the military coup in Myanmar in 2021, EIA’s Forests campaigners have been investigating and exposing the illicit timber trade from Myanmar to international markets.

Using these findings, we have engaged with law enforcement agencies and authorities tasked with implementing regulations to combat a trade that profits a clique of traders and enriches the military Junta and its supporters.

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April 7, 2022
Countries that sanctioned Myanmar’s junta are still buying their timber: Report

Despite sanctions imposed following the February 2021 coup, Myanmar exported more than $190 million worth of timber, including to countries that have sanctions on the country’s state-controlled timber monopoly, according to a new report from Forest Trends. The continued trade highlights the challenges of effectively enforcing sanctions, the report authors say; a lack of reporting on the timber trade from within the country also emphasizes the military regime’s purposeful lack of transparency.

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March 8, 2022
Myanmar Timber Exports Continue, Despite Western Sanctions: Report

Myanmar’s military junta exported more than $37 million worth of timber to nations with active sanctions on the country’s state-run timber monopoly, according to the environmental advocacy group Forest Trends. In a report released yesterday, the U.S.-based organization examined the impact of sanctions imposed since the military’s seizure of power in February 2021, arguing that much more needs to be done to choke off the junta’s ability to profit from sales of timber and other natural resources.

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March 3, 2022
Hundreds of tonnes of illegal timber seized in Arakan State last month

More than 540 tonnes of illegal timber were seized in Arakan State in February, according to figures from the state’s Forest Department. Timber seizures were concentrated in Thandwe District and Ann Township, and most of it was hardwood, according to an unnamed official from the Forest Department.

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February 13, 2022
Illegal logging continues to threaten Arakan State’s forests in post-coup period

Although more than half of Arakan State is covered by natural forests, these forests are being destroyed at alarming annual rates, and environmental groups point out that illegal logging is one of the main causes of deforestation, rather than legal private logging. More than 494 tonnes of illegal timber were seized in Arakan State in January 2022, according to figures from the state’s Forest Department.

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January 24, 2022
Despite sanctions imposed after the coup in Myanmar, the US, EU, and UK still imported >$34 M of timber from Feb-Oct 2021. But most of Myanmar’s timber trade remains unsanctioned, with China and India alone reporting 4x as much during this period

Forest Trends recommends that the US should up its sanctions regime to include the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank. Given that the junta collects timber payments in US$, including MFTB would help overcome leakage to non-sanctioned markets.

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January 11, 2022
US Companies Imported Nearly 1,600 Tonnes Of Myanmar Teak Circumventing Sanctions

As trade in Myanmar teak continues amidst sanctions, a ban on all Myanmar timber imports is necessary. Since the illegal attempted military coup in February 2021, the United States has imported 1,565 metric tonnes of teak from Myanmar, even though sanctions began soon after. Following the attempted coup, the Myanmar military has carried out acts of terrorism against Myanmar people, murdering over 1,400 civilians and imprisoning 11,000 more.

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December 9, 2021
Why has illegal logging increased in the Greater Mekong?

In recent decades, rich tropical forests of the Greater Mekong region have been steadily depleted by the world’s growing appetite for timber. Recognizing the impact of the timber trade on natural forests, governments in the Greater Mekong region have come up with laws to regulate logging and timber exports.

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October 11, 2021
Myanmar's forests under pressure from illegal logging, smuggling

Logging companies and criminal gangs are destroying forests in East Asia at an unprecedented rate. Myanmar is grabbing world headlines for its citizens’ struggle against a military regime that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected National League for Democracy on Feb. 1. Less well known about the country of 54 million people is the ongoing illegal logging that has been destroying the forests of Myanmar.

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October 6, 2021
Myanmar seizes over 510 tons of illegal timbers over one month

Myanmar authorities seized over 510 tons of illegal timbers across the country over one month, according to a release from the Forest Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation on Wednesday. The seizures were made in the country’s regions, states and Nay Pyi Taw Union Territory from Aug. 30 to Oct. 3.

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September 8, 2021
Firms Flout EU Rules, Turn Italy Into Hotspot for Illegal Myanmar Timber Trade

Negligible fines and inadequate enforcement are turning Italy into a hotspot for illegal Myanmar timber, a new report says. At least 27 Italian traders have been importing Burmese teak into Europe despite timber imports from Myanmar being against the law. Italian traders are exploiting the country’s inadequate enforcement to ship timber to the rest of Europe and circumvent the EU’s sanctions and regulations.

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September 1, 2021
Myanmar teak trafficked through Italy

An undercover investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has exposed how a number of Italian companies have continued to profit from the sale of valuable timber from Myanmar. The same report also indicates that other European nations have successfully cracked down on the export and use of timber from Myanmar, especially teak where the superyacht industry is concerned. European authorities agree with the EIA that the importation of Myanmar timber to Italy is in violation of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

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August 17, 2021
Myanmar Junta’s Coup Gives Greenlight to Timber Traffickers

Timber logging usually takes a break in the monsoon. Even smugglers halt their activities from mid-May to early October to avoid the rainy season. However, Salai witnesses 15 to 20 timber trucks passing each day near his village in Hkamti, Sagaing Region—a highly forested region in northwest Myanmar between the border with India and Kachin State.

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July 22, 2021
EU sanctions no ‘silver bullet’ against Myanmar’s illegal timber trade, experts say

The European Union has imposed sanctions on Myanma Timber Enterprise, a state-owned entity that regulates all harvesting and sales of Myanmar timber. The new sanctions mean it is now illegal for businesses in the EU to directly import any timber from Myanmar. While the sanctions send a strong political signal to the junta, experts say their actual impact on Myanmar’s illegal timber trade could be limited.

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Publications Click for publications related to Myanmar
On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) led by Commander-in-Chief Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing ousted the democratically-elected National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government in a military coup. The political situation remains fluid and risks jeopardizing the last decade’s efforts at advancing federal democracy and forest sector reform. Forest management in natural Reserved Forests […]
Two years since the coup d’état against the newly re-elected Union Government of Myanmar (UGoM), and despite a logging ban imposed by the junta and sanctions imposed by the EU, UK, US, Switzerland, and Canada, exports of forest products continue — topping more than half a billion US dollars since February 1, 2021. Sanctioned jurisdictions […]
On February 1st, 2021, the military launched a coup d’état against the newly re-elected government of Myanmar. Over the past year, the military junta has been accused of massive human rights violations, arresting more than 12,000 people, killing more than 1,500, and instigating a growing humanitarian crisis that has seen more than 400,000 internally displaced[…]
While subsistence agriculture and logging still contribute to deforestation, commercial-scale agricultural expansion is now recognized as by far the single largest driver of deforestation worldwide and thus also of greenhouse gas emissions from land-use change. Several initiatives have quantified how much and where deforestation is driven by commercial agriculture, and even how much of this […]
Since 2000, the forests of Myanmar – some of the last remaining old growth forests in Southeast Asia – have been cleared at an ever-increasing rate. Between 1990 and 2020, 27% of the country’s forests was lost, with one-third of deforestation directly due to logging. At the same time, the economic importance of forest products[…]
Myanmar has the highest rate of mangrove loss in Southeast Asia, despite widespread recognition that these ecosystems are critical to protect local villages from coastal flooding. Charcoal production is a significant driver of mangrove deforestation in the country.   Forest Trends’ new data shows that the Myanmar Forest Department significantly underestimates the volume of mangrove[…]
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) requires countries to disclose financial information on their natural resource sector. The Myanmar EITI (MEITI) was one of the few countries to disclose forestry data alongside mining and oil and gas. The most recent reports cover FY16 & 17, coinciding with the first two years of the new National[…]
In the northern Tanintharyi (Tenasserim) Region of southeastern Myanmar, after decades of war, rubber expansion is aggravating tenure insecurity and ethnic political conflict, ultimately undermining peacebuilding and security. Since the main Mon and Karen (Kayin) rebel groups signed ceasefires with the Myanmar military in 2012, rubber production has expanded southward from its epicenter in Mon[…]
EU imports of Burmese timber continue despite European enforcement authorities and the European Commission concluding that such imports do not comply with the EU Timber Regulation. Imports are shifting away from countries with high enforcement effectiveness, but are still entering into the EU.
This report summarizes the role of natural resources in armed conflict and the current peace process in Myanmar. It serves as a baseline study for efforts to promote equitable and accountable management of natural resources for peacebuilding. The main findings overall indicate a lack of meaningful progress on moving towards natural resource good governance reform[…]
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) requires countries to disclose information on their natural resource sector. In 2016, the government of Myanmar published its first Myanmar EITI report (referred to here as the MEITI) on the oil and gas and mining sectors. In January 2019, the MEITI finalized its first reports on forestry. This brief […]
WASHINGTON, DC (12 March 2015) — An exclusive new analysis reveals that the Government of Myanmar has allocated at least 5.2 million acres and plans to allocate another 11 million acres of Southeast Asia’s last remaining biodiversity-rich high-value forests to make way for large-scale, private agribusiness projects that often never materialize. Many of these forest areas […]
This policy brief analyzes recent trends in the timber products trade between China and Myanmar, using Chinese customs data from 2000 through 2013. Timber is one of the primary commodities traded between the two countries, providing significant revenue to Myanmar’s central government and ethnic political armed opposition groups, while supplying China with materials to feed […]
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Export Restrictions
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