Thursday, June 18, 2009

Htoo Company Smuggles Teak to Bangladesh

Maungdaw (Narinjara): Htoo Company, owned by Burmese tycoon U Te Za, has been illegally exporting teak from western Burma to Bangladesh since the company got permission to harvest teak in western Burma, said a source close to the company.

The source said Htoo Company has, since last year, produced a huge amount of teak from the Mayu Range alongside the motor road connecting Buthidaung and Maungdaw Townships in western Burma.

The teak has been stockpiled by the company at Nwa Ron Daung Village in Maungdaw Township, which is located alongside a creek that flows into the Naff River. The Naff River forms the boundary between Burma and Bangladesh.

As the military junta has plans to cultivate rubber plants in the area, particularly in the Mayu Range, the government gave permission to the Htoo Company to clear-cut teak in the area.

A local elder said, "Most of the teak in the area was cultivated over 50 years ago, some before Burma gained independence. It was once the biggest forest in Arakan State."

Even though the company had permission to take teak from the area, there is no market for teak exports except in Bangladesh. The company has been smuggling teak to Bangladesh with the help of two local companies.

A businessman said, "Two business companies from Maungdaw got sub-contracts from the Htoo Company to produce teak from the area. One company is owned by Aung Myint Thein and the other is Myint Brother Ltd."

The two companies have been exporting teak to Bangladesh illegally through the Nwa Ron Daung Jetty, with teak being taken across the Naff River to Bangladesh every night in motor boats.

Maungdaw district authorities and Nasaka officials have remained silent on the issue and have failed to take action, despite the significant amount of teak that is being smuggled to Bangladesh, because the company is owned by Te Za, son-in-law of junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe.

According to a witness, large amounts of teak are being piled up alongside the Maungdaw-Buthidaung motor road after being cut from the area.

A government clerk in Maungdaw told Narinjara over the phone that he estimates that there was nearly 10,000 acres of forest where only the teak trees grew. Now the forest has been clear-cut and most of the teak has been taken by the company.

According to a local source, some timber companies in Bangladesh are working with the Htoo Company to smuggle the teak to Bangladesh through the Bondaw trade zone in Teknaf Township.

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