Myanmar timber auction disappoints cash-strapped junta

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Illegal wood seized under the government of the National League for Democracy. / Forestry Department

Through The Irrawaddy June 2, 2021

Myanma Timber Enterprise sells hardwoods at low prices because few bidders were interested and the timber market is slow after Myanmar’s coup, industry insiders have said.

There were few bidders when the state-owned company sold timber in three separate auctions in late May, as the military regime sought to acquire hard currency by selling illegal timber.

More than 10,200 tonnes of timber were sold for around US $ 5 million (8.2 billion kyat) at auction and industry insiders said revenues were low due to limited competition in the auctions .

“Few companies made offers and the offers fell more than 10% as demand declined,” said a source from Myanma Timber Enterprise.

Illegal timber seized under the NLD government. / Forestry Department

According to industry insiders, Nagani Group Co, Maung Maung Thein Co, United Industrial Co, Win Enterprise Co, MTK Timber Pte Ltd, United Wood Industries Co, Yadi Shin Thant Co, Thein Than Tun Co, Katpana Timber Ltd, National Wood Industries Co, Green Links Pte Ltd bought timber at auction.

Previous anti-regime protesters and the Government of National Unity (NUG), the shadow government formed to compete with the junta, called on logging companies to boycott the auctions.

NUG Resources and Conservation Minister Tu Hkawng urged companies to stop cooperating with the military regime and join the civil disobedience movement by not paying for timber.

Firms bidding for less than 1,000 tonnes of timber had to pay a cash deposit of $ 10,000 (16.4 million kyat), those offering between 1,000 and 2,000 tonnes of timber had to pay $ 20,000 and those offering between 2,000 and 3,000 tonnes paid $ 30,000. If they fail to make payment within 75 days, their deposits and lumber will be foreclosed.

The International Environmental Investigation Agency reported in May that the junta was seeking hard currency by selling tens of thousands of tonnes of illegal timber, including some 200,000 tonnes seized under the government of the National League for Democracy.

Illegal timber seized under the NLD government. / Forestry Department

The regime, which is fighting international sanctions, also sold jade, gems and pearls at an April auction in Naypyitaw, earning more than 3.3 billion kyat ($ 2 million).

NUG said it would blacklist companies and traders who participated in the junta’s natural resource auctions. He also warned that he would blacklist government employees involved in the auction for embezzlement of public property.

Illegal logging has increased since the February coup and the Forest Department has been unable to do anything to stop illegal logging, a source told the department.

“Illegal logging had previously declined because the Forestry Department rewarded information leading to the arrest of illegal loggers. But we can no longer protect our resources, ”he said.


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