Seized timber under military microscope in Pyin Oo Lwin
THE Tatmadaw is responsible for taking action in a case involving more than 300 tonnes of illegally harvested timber in Pyin Oo Lwin township, Mandalay Region, which was discovered last month in a protected forest area cordoned off for military research.
“This firewood was seized in the military’s research compound. That’s why it is the military’s responsibility to take action against [the perpetrators],” said U Maung Maung Aye, deputy director of the Department of Forestry for Pyin Oo Lwin township. “I have no idea how they will take action, using which laws ... Our department conducted field investigations.”
U Tun Win, administrator for the Ho Late village tract, told The Myanmar Times earlier this month that at least one suspect has been detained in connection with the case.
“With instruction from the township administrator, I took part in the inspection along with the Forestry Department’s head,” said U Tun Win, whose village tract includes Ban Thar village, located near the military compound.
“We found a lot of piles of firewood and two trawlergyi [tractor-trailers] that carried the firewood. Total tonnage is about 328,” he added.
“All were cut from the protected research area. The person who asked to cut wood in the forest is U Htay Hlaing from Htone Kone village. Lumberjacks also admitted that they were being asked [to harvest the timber] by U Htay Hlaing. No action has been taken so far, since his arrest.”
U Htay Hlaing was officially permitted to collect firewood totalling about 60 tonnes a year for kitchen fuel at a local forestry school.
“For the forestry school’s kitchen, up to 60 tonnes of firewood a year is allowed to be cut. From what I saw, this was not firewood but big trees,” Ban Thar village’s administrator told The Myanmar Times earlier this month.
The cache of seized timber included hardwood varieties such as Shorea obtusa and ironwood, said residents.
Local environmental conservation group Sein Lan Pyin Oo Lwin condemned the illegal timber extraction and urged both military and civilian authorities to act in the case.
“All are cut from big trees so we can’t consider it to be firewood ... Both the military and the Forestry Department should cooperate and take separate actions in this case,” Sein Lan Pyin Oo Lwin’s vice chair, U Ko Ko Gyi, told The Myanmar Times yesterday.
In May the group accused Pyin Oo Lwin district’s Forestry Department of lax enforcement of forest protection laws, noting that its seizures of illegal timber in 2015-16 – at about 1036 tonnes – amounted to less than half the haul authorities had made the year prior. – Translation by Zar Zar Soe