Sunday, 31 May 2020

Maungdaw, Arakan State: A smuggling circle consisting of more than four people from Maungdaw North in Nasaka Area No. 6 have been smuggling logs and timber planks to Bangladesh with the cooperation of local authorities, said a local trader who declined to be named.

The illegal traders in timber and forestry products are identified as Jubair, the ex-Village Chairman of Maung Nama Village Tract, Yousuf, Abdul Hussain, and Mohamed Amin. They all belong to Maung Nama Village. Jubair is a notorious collaborator of the Nasaka who frequently creates problems for the local villagers by extorting money.

According to a local source in northern Maungdaw, the timber trading group arranges permission from Burma’s border security force (Nasaka) and Forest Department after paying bribes. They have been smuggling timber to Bangladesh for some time even though locals are barred from felling trees in the forest.

After feeling trees, the smugglers sell some of the timber planks in the local area at the rate of 3,000 kyats per plank, which measures 18 ft by 8 inches by 0.6 inches, while the actual cost should only be 1,200 kyats. The majority of the hardwood logs and timber planks are being sent to Bangladesh.

“The authorities have long been involved in the illegal felling and smuggling of timber and forestry products to Bangladesh, and routinely accept bribes from the smugglers,” according to a local villager source. “Corruption is common among those in the timber trade,” sources confirmed to Kaladan Press.

The sawmill owners earn only 1,000 kyats per plank, while the smugglers get considerably more money, said a local businessman.

According to a border trader who spoke to Kaladan Press on condition of anonymity, the selling price in local areas for hardwood is 400,000 to 550,000 kyats per ton, while the black market price is 900,000 kyats.

Most of the timber and hardwood is from Mayu and Mangla Gyi Mountains. It is generally sawn into beams and logs and transported by engine boat and sent to Bangladesh by river, a local source said.

“If the timber smuggling to Bangladesh continues, the forest will be depleted in Maungdaw North in the not-so-distant future,” said a local elder.

Another local trader said, “It is necessary to report the matter to the concerned authorities, and they need to immediately halt the smuggling and to give punishment to the criminals.”