Magwe ac­tivists threat­ened by log­gers

The Myanmar Times - - News - NAY AUNG nayaung@mm­times.com

MEM­BERS of a lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion group in Magwe Re­gion say they have been threat­ened by il­le­gal tim­ber traders, re­port­edly fol­low­ing leaks from the re­gion’s Forestry Depart­ment.

The Ngape Youth Net­work, which gives con­ser­va­tion and agri­cul­tural train­ings to lo­cal peo­ple in the re­gion, say they have re­ceived threats from il­le­gal log­gers who were told by the Forestry Depart­ment that a num­ber of their ar­rests were the re­sult of com­plaints from the net­work.

“We heard that the Forestry Depart­ment told the tim­ber traders that they made ar­rests be­cause of our com­plaints. This has in­flamed ten­sions be­tween us and il­le­gal lum­ber­jacks in our area,” said Ko Kyaw Ko Ko Shein, an ad­viser work­ing at the youth net­work.

Ear­lier this year, Magwe Re­gion’s Min­istry of Re­sources, En­vi­ron­ment, Elec­tric­ity and En­ergy told The Myan­mar Times that res­i­dents could pro­vide con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion to their lo­cal MPs about il­le­gal log­ging.

“Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have a close re­la­tion­ship with these tim­ber traders. When they make ar­rests for il­le­gal log­ging, they al­ways say that they are only mak­ing the ar­rests be­cause they had re­ceived a com­plaint,” said Salai Yan Naung Tun, the in­terim leader of the Ngape Youth Net­work.

One woman from the youth or­gan­i­sa­tion, who re­quested not to be named, said traders had made threats to­ward her fam­ily.

“They said, ‘We will make your fam­ily cry like we did,’” she said.

She also was told that il­le­gal drugs would be planted in her home and that she would be arrested be­cause of it.

Ac­cord­ing to Salai Yan Naung Tun, threats against lo­cal civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions by il­le­gal log­gers have been com­mon for a num­ber of years in the wake of any ac­tion taken against them by po­lice, though he re­mained de­fi­ant.

“De­spite these threats, we won’t stop our en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion works,” he said.

The Minbu-Ann road, which passes through Ngape town­ship, is a hot­bed of il­le­gal tim­ber trad­ing ac­tiv­ity, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal res­i­dents.

In Au­gust, U Thant Zin, the head of the Aye­yarwady West De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion, told The Myan­mar Times that there were many il­le­gal log­ging op­er­a­tions in the moun­tain­ous parts of west­ern Magwe Re­gion, smug­gling tim­ber into Bangladesh.

Forestry Depart­ment fig­ures state that al­most 900 tonnes of il­le­gal tim­ber have been seized by au­thor­i­ties up un­til July of this year.

– Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

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