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LinkAsia | Feb 11
Foreign direct investment, primarily from China and South Korea, has flooded Myanmar since the country began to open up and enact broad reforms two...
Now to Myanmar, it's one of the most forested countries in the Asia-Pacific. But the trees are disappearing. The forests have shrunk by about 20 percent. Illegal logging for teak and other hardwood to make furniture is to blame. And China is a major market. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has this report on efforts to stop the smuggling of timber from Myanmar.
Along the border of China and Myanmar, piles of teak and hongmu logs attest to the booming timber trade. In the town of Ruili, timber mills are flourishing. In a single day, dozens of trees come to the mill as logs. They're to become luxurious tables, chairs and furniture, often exported overseas.
Xie Wenhua, Furniture Shop Manager:
Because here we are close to Myanmar, the wood from Myanmar is cheaper when it is transported here from across the border. It's cheap, but it's still the real material.
But while the business is good, it's also illegal. In most areas of China, the crackdown on the illegal timber trade has pushed most Chinese mills to process soft woods. But in Ruili, hardwood logs razed from Burmese forests are plundered for use in the domestic and global furniture industry.
Charles Bedford, The Nature Conservancy:
You know, the old Chinese saying "the mountains are high, and the emperor is far away" applies particularly well in this case. It's a very long way from Beijing, and even the best intentions of the forestry officials in Beijing can sometimes take a long time to trickle down into enforcement at the local level.
In the last few years, China has pledged to tackle the problem of illegal logging, both in China and across its borders. Yet to completely eradicate illegal logging, it's tougher than it seems.
Probably the toughest issue to crack and to deal with is how do you work in a community where a single log can support a family for a year or multiple years. And how do you figure out the set of incentives and alternative livelihoods that can sustain people and communities in the forest over time.
The challenge, according to Bedford, is to encourage poor families to protect rather than plunder the forests for income.
So, how much money does a hardwood log bring in? Somewhere around USD$1,200.