LONDON: On 1 February 2021, Myanmar’s armed forces seized control of the country and declared a one-year state of emergency.
National League for Democracy officials, civilian leaders and civil society activists across the country have been detained; communications were cut and continue to be sporadic, isolating citizens even further.
On 3 February, EIA received a letter and statement via email from the Myanmar Forest Products and Timber Merchants Association (MFPTMA) stating: “Exporter from Myanmar and direct Buyer from EU countries are trading legally and officially according to the existing forest laws, rules, regulations and procedures under the Strictly management of Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Forest Department and Myanmar Timber Enterprise”.
The MFPTMA is asking EIA and others for support in distributing the contents of its statement of legality measures in the export of timber from Myanmar and to update this information to potential buyers and NGOs.
Our position is absolutely clear – EIA will not support any trade in timber and wood products originating from Myanmar.
EIA has for the past decade exposed the blatant theft of Myanmar’s forests, the high-level corruption that starts at the top of the military regime and the crimes committed in forest-rich areas upon which the people of Myanmar rely for their security and livelihoods.
We have also exposed people and organisations involved in Myanmar, neighbouring countries, the region, Europe and in the US who have continued to support the theft of Myanmar’s forests, usually expressing outrage when confronted.
An opportunity existed before 1 February for governance and technical reform within the sector, which was supported by the international community, civil society, professional foresters and some private sector.
This can no longer be the case as there is now a military-installed government ruling in all aspects of the country and benefitting only the regime.
Timber exporters within Myanmar and members of MFPTMA have stated that they rely solely on raw material supplied from the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) and it is business as usual.
However, the MTE is a State-owned enterprise which has profited to the tune of billions of dollars with no oversight or accountability as to where this money has gone and how it has been used. It is opaque in the extreme and has no place in the management of the country’s timber exports.
The MFPTMA statement also claims Myanmar is complying with the EU’s Timber Regulation (EUTR). It is not.
EIA reminds all potential customers considering purchasing timber from Myanmar that the EU has a common position outlining why Myanmar’s system does not comply with this law.
Myanmar’s valuable timber exists mainly in areas where ethnic forests and lands have been under threat for decades. The military regime has used force to gain territory, escalating conflict and displacing thousands of innocent civilians.
With the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February, we would further remind those buyers considering purchasing timber or wood products originating from Myanmar that they are supporting violence within the forest and against innocent civilians, as well as contributing to the destruction of democracy in Myanmar. They will be supporting military rule.
- Immediately release members of the civilian Government and civil society and hand back power to the democratically elected government.
- Economic sanctions must be targeted directly at the military regime, individuals and State-owned enterprises controlled by the military regime. This must include the natural resource sector, including timber (the Myanmar Timber Enterprise).
- That sanctions are not just aimed at direct trade to one country but at finding ways to stop circumvention of raw materials and products to international markets. In the case of timber, the EU can immediately prevent imports from Myanmar by enforcing the common position that timber from the country cannot comply with the EU Timber Regulation. Other countries with prohibitions on illegal timber, such as the US, Australia and Japan can investigate placements of Myanmar timber on the market and take action against any that is from an illegal source.
- The wealth of all military officials led by General Min Aung Hlaing must be investigated, including their company holdings and all money flows into and out of Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (MEHL).
Timber trade private sector:
- Not to support the trade in timber and wood products originating from Myanmar. This includes from third countries circumventing current laws.
- As current President of the United National Security Council, the UK Government must seek to impose economic sanctions on natural resources from Myanmar, including timber.
- To ensure that any financial support is directed at the citizens of Myanmar and not the military regime and their families engaged in business from military company holdings.
CONTACTS FOR MEDIA
- Paul Newman, EIA Senior Press & Communications Officer, via press[at]eia-international.org
- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
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