Current appeal: Protecting Myanmar’s forests

Fighting the illegal trade in timber from Myanmar

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A military regime

Since the military coup in Myanmar in February 2021, the military regime has driven the country to the brink of bankruptcy. It is desperate for hard currency and is selling off the country’s natural resources, razing forests to raise the cash it needs to stay in power.

The country’s valuable teak is an extremely lucrative source of illicit income – although sanctions are in place, the regime will stop at nothing in its determination to exploit the country’s forests for profit.

Log trucks loaded with wood in Myanmar © EIA UK

Log trucks loaded with wood in Myanmar © EIA UK

Myanmar’s forests are being destroyed at a devastating rate. Between 2000-20, an area larger than the size of Switzerland was lost. This deforestation threatens to destroy the habitats of many endangered species that are native to Myanmar.

Tigers

The number of wild tigers in Myanmar is dwindling due to habitat loss and poaching.

Sun bear

The sun bear, the smallest species of bear at just 70cm tall at the shoulder, is vulnerable due to the loss of its forest habitat.

Snub-nosed monkey

The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey is a critically endangered species.

Elephants

Deforestation threatens the survival of Myanmar’s elephants.

Why is it called 'blood timber'?

Myanmar teak is known as ‘blood timber’ because the income it generates is being used to support a vicious military regime.

To date, more than 3,100 people have been killed by the military regime in Myanmar and more than 16,400 have been detained for opposing the coup. An estimated 17.6 million people require humanitarian aid and more than 55,400 civilian houses have been burned down.

 

Anyone who is involved in trading Myanmar teak is supporting the military regime.

Working with forest defenders

EIA’s Forests team has been working in Myanmar for more than a decade, collaborating with local partners and communities to investigate and expose the illegal timber trade.

We have established networks with many of the extraordinary activists who work to defend their forests from illegal logging. These forest defenders are among Myanmar’s most important environmental champions. They have been at the forefront of protecting the teak forests and their wildlife.

Two years on from the coup, many of Myanmar’s forest defenders are either in jail or in hiding, so our work to support them by stopping the international trade in Myanmar teak is more important than ever.

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A luxury commodity

One of the most outstanding features of Myanmar’s forests is the Tectona grandis, or teak tree. Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world where natural teak forests grow.

Myanmar teak has been prized for centuries due to its golden-red colour, smooth grain and weather-resistant properties. Today, it is a luxury commodity in particularly high demand for use as decking in the superyacht industry. One log can sell for as much as $5,500.

The huge demand for Myanmar teak is driving illegal logging and the smuggling of timber into international markets such as the EU, US, China and India.

Tackling the teak trade

Thanks to your support, we’ve done an incredible amount in the past 10 years to tackle this environmentally disastrous trade. We’ve identified kingpin criminals, exposed corrupt officials and fought for tougher legislation to stop illicit shipments of Myanmar teak from coming into Europe.

Our achievements include:

  • exposing the European timber traders evading EU laws to import Myanmar teak via Croatia
  • helping to secure international sanctions targeting Myanmar’s timber and natural resources to choke off funds for the military regime
  • identifying American traders who are ignoring sanctions to import blood timber into the US from Myanmar.

What needs to happen next

There is no legal way that timber can be imported from Myanmar into the EU.

However, determined traders are breaking laws and sanctions so they can continue to profit from the trade in Myanmar teak.

We are campaigning for a crackdown on rogue teak traders and stronger penalties that fit the true severity of forest crime.

Reasons for hope

©Ninjastrikers

The situation in Myanmar is bleak, but there are reasons for hope.

The people of Myanmar continue to mount an extraordinarily brave campaign of strikes and protests against the coup. In the long term, resistance could topple the military regime.

In December 2022, we saw the first criminal convictions for the illicit import of Myanmar teak into Europe. This could represent a turning point – proof that EU countries are willing to prosecute traders who deal in conflict timber.

Will you help us stand with the people of Myanmar to protect their forests?

Please donate today to save Myanmar's forests

Deforestation is destroying Myanmar’s forests, driving climate change and devastating the country’s people and wildlife.

Any gift you are able to give us today will help us to continue our fight against the illegal trade in timber from Myanmar and other environmental crimes around the world.