Log depot, Myanmar

US Government acts against Myanmar military coup with tough sanctions on timber

The US Department of the Treasury has today (21 April) hit two major State-owned businesses in Myanmar with trade and economic sanctions.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has formally designated the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE), which is responsible for timber exports from the country.

It has also taken action against Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, which handles pearl exports.

The sanctions include a block on receiving any goods from the MTE or any payment for the benefit of MTE. This prohibits US companies from purchasing any products that are from MTE, which is the only formal source of Myanmar timber under the current military regime.

In a statement, the Treasury said: “The timber and pearl industries are key economic resources for the Burmese military regime that is violently repressing pro-democracy protests in the country and that is responsible for the ongoing violent and lethal attacks against the people of Burma, including the killing of children. These sanctions are not directed at the people of Burma.”

EIA has been highlighting crime in the forest sector in Myanmar for more than a decade; two weeks ago, we published an online resource highlighting how the military continues to profit from exports of timber, particularly teak in high demand for the luxury yachting sector.

We have made the case to both the EU and the US for strong sanctions against Myanmar’s current military dictatorship and the profits to them from this natural resource.

Faith Doherty, our Forests Campaigns Leader, said: “Sanctions placed on MTE in Myanmar is a significant blow to the military regime, which directly profits from the country’s valuable and diminishing forests.

“This will also undermine the corrupt officials who have plundered this natural resource.”

Myanmar teak in breach of EU law seized in the Netherlands

The Treasury Department’s sanctions mean that no timber or timber products originating from the country can be exported to the US.

In addition, should traders attempt to circumvent sanctions by sourcing through other countries or ‘middle-men’ brokers selling Myanmar timber, then the US Lacey Act is in place to ensure proper enforcement. EIA strongly urges the Department of Justice to be vigilant in its monitoring of Myanmar timber into its markets.

Doherty added: “Previously, under the 2008 US Jade Act, MTE and timber were sanctioned, but the US-based International Wood Products Association (IWPA) managed to undermine attempts to combat illegal logging and the associated trade by obtaining a waiver to trade with the MTE.

“EIA demands that the IWPA does not attempt to undermine these new sanctions.”