Timber has played a pivotal role in Burma's history both incentivising and funding conflict. Since 1988, the ruling military regime has controlled most of the forest resources within Burma and revenue derived from the timber trade has helped the regime maintain its grip on power.
After the ceasefires in the early 1990s, new areas bordering Thailand and China were opened up for uncontrolled logging in one of the world’s most exceptional biodiversity hotspots. Since then, the armed ethnic groups have been able to finance their side of the conflict through partial control of the mostly illegal border trade. China and Thailand have supported the insurgents, often in exchange for access to natural resources, including timber.
Global Witness has carried out a number of investigations into the destructive and mostly illegal logging of Burma’s forests. Following our exposure of the massive illegal timber trade between Burma and China in A Choice For China, published in 2005, the authorities in both countries initially denied that there was a problem. However, the denials were swiftly followed by action on both sides of the border: a ban on logging and timber transportation in Kachin State in Burma and a Chinese ban on the importation of Burmese timber.
Both the bans and China's accompanying Interim Measures to control the trade have been enforced, albeit inconsistently, and, as a result, illegal logging in Kachin State has decreased dramatically, as has the associated trade with China. However, some illicit trade continues, causing serious damage to the environment in Kachin State as the forest is cleared, often to make way for plantations.
- 01.10.2005 | A Choice for China: Ending the destruction of Burma's frontier forests
- 07.10.2003 | A Conflict Of Interest (English)
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