The forests of Myanmar are defined by their monetary value and have been part of the military and economic elites’ profits and, in some cases, survival for decades. The entire legal state forestry and timber trade sectors have been systematically riddled with fraud, bribery, corruption and other forms of illegality for at least two decades, undermining any governance reform. Current laws seem to seek the criminalisation of local people through all its policies on resource
extraction, including timber, the Government is undermining communities’ reliance on resources while at the same time introducing a centralised system management they are unable to implement, creating even more conflict. From 1989 to the present day, Myanmar’s past military regimes and its current Government have presented the teak trade regulated by the forestry department and implemented by the state-run Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) as being wholly legal and sustainable, conducted in compliance with the rule of law. This is simply not the case. A two-year undercover investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) into a near-mythic ‘Burmese teak kingpin’ who conspired with and bribed the most senior military and Government officials in Myanmar has revealed how he was able to establish a secret off-thebooks system of fraudulent trade in the cream of the country’s teak logs. This was run in parallel to, and within, the official legal trade administered by MTE. Our investigations also took us to the Myanmar-China border where, other than the state of Myanmar itself, China has played the biggest role of any nation in the illegal expropriation of Myanmar teak and other hardwoods.