Kachin state government authorities in northern Myanmar seized more than 20,000 metric tons (22,046 U.S. tons) of illegal timber near the country’s border with China over the last five years, a high-ranking forestry official said Thursday.
Aung Naing, Kachin state minister of forestry and mines, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that authorities confiscated nearly 10,600 metric tons (11,685 U.S. tons) of teak and other illegally harvested wood in 2014-2015 alone, the greatest amount seized during the five-year period.
Authorities confiscated most of the timber in Mansi township near Bhamo district, an area rife with illegal logging activities, although last year’s major seizure occurred in the Mawein and Lawsar areas near Chibwe township in Myitkyina district, where authorities arrested illegal Chinese workers and seized heavy machinery, he said. Other arrests were made in the Kha-yar, Weigyi and Sinbo areas.
“In some cases, the timber had been transported from Sagaing region and Shan state and was on its way to China from the Mansi area where the government has no control,” Aung Naing said.
Besides illegal logs, authorities also confiscated illegal narcotics and vehicles and detained 150 illegal Chinese nationals last year in Waingmaw township of Myitkyina district, he said.
“Smugglers took advantage of the instability in the region,” he said. “But whenever there is stability, our departmental officials and the police are able to patrol the area and stop their operations.”
Clashes between government troops and Kachin rebels during the past few years have brought instability to the area, and displaced thousands of civilians, forcing some across the border into China.