China Cracking Down on Illegal Timber from Myanmar
BEIJING China has quietly cracked down on illegal timber imports from Myanmar, a rights group and state media say, after decades of Chinese logging in the isolated country's northern forests.
A report from the southwestern province of Yunnan, which borders Myanmar, said that as of March 27 measures had been adopted to ensure all logging and mineral trade was legal.
"All border posts and border inspections will adopt measures to prevent people from our side illegally crossing the border to log or extract minerals and bring the goods from Myanmar into Yunnan," said the report on the official Xinhua news agency.
Environment groups say China is at the heart of a global trade plundering forests in Southeast Asia for lumber it sells to markets in the United States and Europe, and charge that much of its plywood exports come from illegal logging.
Global Witness, a British-based non-governmental organisation, said last year China imported timber from Myanmar worth an estimated $350 million, almost all of it illegal.
But the group conducted an investigation in May that showed Chinese checkpoints had been sealed to log transports.
"Some timber is still entering China via border back roads, however the overall volumes are vastly reduced," Global Witness said in a recent statement.
"Sawmills in China's frontier timber towns are at a standstill and thousands of Chinese timber workers have left the border area," it said.
China has traditionally had a close relationship with Myanmar, formerly Burma, valuing not only its timber, but its gas resources and military bases that give it access to the Indian Ocean.
But analysts say it has also been increasingly concerned about drugs and HIV/AIDS flooding across the border and is keen to stop instability in Myanmar, which has endured decades of military rule, from impacting on China.
China's Foreign Ministry said trade and cooperation with Myanmar helped economic development in the border area but added that the government did not permit Chinese citizens to engage in illegal crossings.
"In recent years, China and Myanmar have strengthened aspects of cooperation on border management and adopted effective measures to crack down on criminal activities, including illegal logging, achieving obvious results," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement faxed to Reuters.