Seized tim­ber un­der mil­i­tary mi­cro­scope in Pyin Oo Lwin

The Myanmar Times - - News - SI THU LWIN sithul­win@mm­times.com

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

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