Where does the Greater Mekong’s illegal timber go?

After forests are logged, felled trees are typically sent to sawmills, where they’re processed into boards, or lumber. It’s in this processed form that wood typically enters the international commodity supply chain. But not all lumber is created equal.

In the Greater Mekong region, high-quality hardwoods such as teak and rosewood from Myanmar are particularly valuable, and have been logged almost to commercial extinction. Burmese rosewood (Dalbergia oliveri) remains highly sought after by Chinese buyers, fueled by a growing appetite for Qing and Ming-style furniture. Though Myanmar banned raw log exports in 2014, the booming demand in China and poor enforcement in Myanmar mean rosewood is regularly smuggled by truck across the land border between the two countries.

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Sheryl Lee Tian Tong