More timber found on military research compound
OFFICIALS have found a third cache of timber on a military research compound in Mandalay.
Another 11 tonnes of illegal timber was confiscated from a former wood factory within a forest area cordoned off for military research on September 1, bringing the total illegal timber found in that area over the past two month to 500 tonnes.
On July 4, officials found 328 tonnes of illegal timber in the area, near Ban Thar village within the Ho Late village tract in Mandalay Region’s Pyin Oo Lwin township. Further investigation turned up another 161 tonnes of firewood on August 26.
On September 1, Lieutenant Colonel Naing Win from the Military Academy, Lt Col Soe Aung from the Tatmadaw Science and Technology Research Department, officials from the Forest Department, officials from National League for Democracy and the local administrator searched the area once again.
Their investigation yielded another 11 tonnes, mostly hardwood, after they dug out the ground, Ho Late village tract administrator U Tun Win told The Myanmar Times yesterday.
They found 18 hardwood logs, two hardwood divided sections, three hardwood bars, and another 13 timber logs, he said.
A local resident named U Htay Hlaing had a permit to collect about 60 tonnes a year for kitchen fuel at a forestry school. But both the July and August raids far exceed the number of logs allotted, and the second cache was hidden, and included luxury hardwood varieties such as Shorea obtusa and ironwood, according to residents.
“U Htay Hlaing, who got permission to extract timber here, denied that he was responsible for these timber extractions, creating the illusion that the military extracted this timber,” U Tun Win said.
“The military is suing U Htay Hlaing for the extraction of the first 328 tonnes. We have heard that the Forest [Department] will sue for the second. Whoever is responsible for the illegal extraction of timber, we want effective action taken against them.”
Pyin Oo Lwin township Forest Department staff officer U Myint Naing Oo said the local resident should not be held responsible for all three caches without evidence. “The owner of first piles of seized firewood is U Htay Hlaing. So, it is assumed that U Htay Hlaing is the owner of the second piles of seized firewood. But we have to do investigations,” he said.
“We cooperated with the officials from the military and NLD to seize the illegally extracted timber. The military is planning to deploy security.”
Under the Forestry Law section 41(a) – with which the military is charging U Htay Hlaing – whoever extracts, moves or keeps unlawful possession of any forest produce will be punished with a fine of up to K10,000 or with imprisonment, which may extend to one year.
Permission for U Htay Hlaing to extract firewood was signed and announced by Myanmar Forest School headmaster U Thein Myint. U Htay Hlaing was also assigned to maintain the natural forests and oversee the extraction of firewood, which was meant to be used to bake brick and lime within the Tatmadaw Science and Technology Research Department area, according to documents.
The Sein Lan Pyin Oo Lwin environmental group says it opposes the illegally extract timber and urges officials to take action.
“Our Sein Lan environmental group will hold a meeting on this firewood and timber seizure issue, make a decision and release a statement,” chair U Lay Myint Aung said. “If we [the local residents] do not protect our Pyin Oo Lwin land, the climate change in Pyin Oo Lwin will worsen.”
– Translation by Win Thaw Tar
Forest Department workers examine logs dug up by an old wood factory.