Magwe activists threatened by loggers
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