Myanmar’s logging ban feeds shadow economy of illegal trade

Sitting in a shop on the riverfront in Mandalay just last week, Win Nyunt assessed whether it was safe to hide a ton of illegally logged teak in a nearby monastery at midnight. “If I put the logs in the monastery it is safer, but I don’t like to do that because I am a religious guy. I don’t want to mix business with religion,” the teak trader told Mongabay about his work in Myanmar’s second largest city. Normally Win Nyunt would keep the 2,200 pounds of Burmese hardwood logs at his home, but needed to make an exception with his latest boatload because of increased police activity. “I have never seen this kind of restriction in my life, this is the worst,” said Win Nyunt. There’s good reason for the pressure. Myanmar has the third highest rate of deforestation in the world. As part of an attempt to arrest the catastrophic annual forest loss of 1.8 percent, the country is in the midst of a logging ban set to end next year. Shortly after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy assumed power in Myanmar in April 2016, a temporary ban on all logging was brought into force.

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