East Asia is in the midst of an environmental disaster, with some of the highest deforestation rates in the world; by 2030, the region could lose approximately 70 million hectares of natural forest, equivalent to 25 per cent of the projected global total. Unsustainable demand for high-value hardwoods is also a major driver of forest loss.
The logging of hardwoods has become industrialised in many countries in the region; logging companies and gangs now have the capacity to move into a forested area and rapidly extract all available hardwoods. These selective logging operations are typically run by large companies or criminal syndicates with strong links to the military and government; once they move into a rural community, this can have adverse and far-reaching impacts on existing social structures, communal land tenure and traditional sources of livelihood. Additionally, despite being some of the most vulnerable people within these rural communities, enforcement action is usually targeted at this same demographic as the easiest part of the trade chain to apprehend because their arrest is unlikely to result in political repercussions.