Timber blamed for renewed clash in Kachin State

Tun Lin Aung
Myanmar Eleven May 22, 2015 1:00 am #block_media{ position:relative; display:block; clear:both; } #tab_photo,#tab_video{ display:inline-block; width:60px; height:auto; padding:3px; position:absolute; top:-25px; left:500px; text-align:center; background-color:#ccc; color:#000; cursor:pointer; z-index:0; } @-moz-document url-prefix() { #tab_photo,#tab_video{ top:-26px; } } #tab_video{ left:564px; } #block_media .tab_media_active{ background-color:#0c3e6f; color:#fff; } #slides_box,.box-vdo-top{ z-index:600; } Myitkyina - More fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has taken place in Kachin State due to illegal timber extraction, according to sources. A senior military officer from the northern command said: "Fighting has occurred in Mansi. There was fighting in Hpakant Township. The KIA attacked us in Nanlinpar village near Mansi Township while we were preparing to handover the seized timber to the forestry department.

"We fought back after they attacked us. I don't know if the KIA suffered causalities. It did not take long. Our side reported no casualties. We are in pursuit of several timber smuggling gangs. We seized timber while clearing the region. We seized more than 500 logs near Nanlinpar, mostly teak.

"We apprehend gangs when we get news of them. We cannot know everything that is happening at a lower level. It is impossible to know all the routes used by smugglers. We will continue with aerial monitoring as peace has been restored to the region," the unnamed officer said.

Hsan Aung, from the Myitkyina-based Kachin Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG), said: "Fighting often occurs. Both sides should contain the current situation at such a crucial time when the national ceasefire deal is being signed. The government army should inform everyone of its movements in advance."

Timber smugglers said they had to pass through many army gates.

Workers say a gang called "BDY" started smuggling timber in March from Shweli basin and Katha District in January. Apparently it costs around Ks6 billion to obtain a permit for timber extraction from ethnic leaders.

There are around five main illegal timber routes to China.

In 2013, there was a month of fighting with the KIA in Mansi Township, Bhamo District. More than 4,000 tonnes of timber was confiscated. The timber was mostly teak and tamalan or rosewood.

Smugglers have been hampered in their logging operations by the fighting.

An operative from a smuggling ring told the Daily Eleven: "Since the Inbarpar road sees a lot of clashes, the Momauk to Lwin Jal road has been mainly used. It takes around five hours to get to Momauk Township and three hours to drive from there since the roads are in better condition. We use up to 12 wheelers and some four-wheel SUVs. Those who have connections with the KIA carry their loads through the forests while those who have deals with the army use government routes."

"On May 16, many timber-smuggling vehicles left Momauk. The Kachin regional government was alerted but they came the following morning. By that time, the smugglers had already sold the timber because it's only a three-hour drive," said a Momauk resident.

In China, teak and padauk goes for Ks5 million per tonne and tamalan for more than Ks6 million. The rising value of the Chinese yuan is driving further smuggling.

Illegal Chinese gangs are allegedly involved in the smuggling of timber from Katha District of northern Sagaing Region and Moemeik and Mabein of northern Shan State to China.

Momauk Township's government office was unavailable for comment.

Kachin State is suffering from increasing deforestation and the loss and wildlife whose habitats are being destroyed.

Timber smuggling to China has been rising since 2000 with hill ranges along the border becoming totally deforested.

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