Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ban on timber imports from Burma could be lifted

Cheewin Sattha Piyarach Chongcharoen

Critics say embargo makes no sense

The northern province of Mae Hong Son is considering lifting a ban on Burmese timber imports, citing disadvantages from indirectly buying Burmese timber from neighbouring countries. Mae Hong Son governor Thongchai Wongrianthong said the province is thinking of resuming the timber trade with ethnic Burmese minorities which get approval from the ruling Burmese junta.

''Mae Hong Son borders Burma, but we let business opportunities slip away while Malaysia, China and Singapore have imported timber from Burma. Thailand ends up buying Burmese timber from Malaysia,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Mae Hong Son authorities seized 926 items of processed golden teak wood and timber processing machines in a raid at a factory in Muang district on Friday.

On the previous day, authorities confiscated a number of processed pieces of timber from the factory belonging to Direk Puyati.

Muang district police chief Pathom Prachankhet said Mr Direk claimed he purchased the wood from the Forest Industry Organisation in Tak's Phop Phra district.

However, Pol Col Pathom said the timber was fresh and was possibly felled illegally less than three weeks earlier.

A source said a smuggling ring had supplied timber from Thailand and Burma to a police general, who is reportedly building a golden teak house in Samut Prakan which he plans to sell to wealthy businessmen or politicians.

In Kanchanaburi, governor Amnart Pakarat wants better protection for the Khao Chang Phuak forest in tambon Huay Khayeng of Thong Pha Phum district.

The governor made the statement after the recent discovery that 1,000 rai of the forest had been cleared for rubber plantations.

He said officials also found 13 stumps of hundred-year-old deciduous dipterocarp trees, measuring more than two metres in diameter, and processed timber in Ban Huaykob in tambon Nonglu, in Kanchanaburi's Sangkhla district.

He urged authorities to beef up forest protection measures and take action against encroachers.

The governor conceded that a lack of manpower hampered forest conservation work.

The 10th Forest Protection Unit in Kanchanaburi, which has less than 10 officials, has to take care of a vast area of forest, which stretches over seven million rai, he said.

He is to report the problem to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry so that appropriate action would be taken.

Source: Bangkok Post

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