Myanmar teak exports to US still fund military rule: Watchdog | Economic News

The group said U.S. companies were still buying valuable timber from Myanmar despite sanctions imposed after the military takeover.

U.S. companies continue to import teak, a precious hardwood, from Myanmar, despite sanction Washington imposed after the military took over the country last year, according to a watchdog group.

Rights group Justice Myanmar found that US companies did not import timber from Myanmar until December, despite sanctions imposed in April. The companies appear to be circumventing sanctions through intermediary purchases, the group said in a report released on Tuesday.

In total, nearly 1,600 tonnes of timber arrived at U.S. companies between February and November last year, the group said, citing data from global trade database Panjiva.

“The timber arrived in 82 different shipments … mainly including teak boards and components for shipbuilding, outdoor decks and furniture,” said the group, which urged the US and other governments to crack down on the teak trade to better curb the lumber trading. The money went to the Burmese military leadership.

“It is likely that more teak will be exported to the US via third countries such as China,” the report said.

Sanctions announced by the U.S. Treasury Department on April 21, 2021 prohibit transactions with Myanmar Timber Enterprises, a state-owned company under Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. The company oversees all timber exports from Myanmar, which are sold to private companies through auctions.

The EU imposed similar sanctions in June.

Timber is one of the most valuable industries in resource-rich Myanmar, bringing in millions of dollars in tax and export revenue each year.

According to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global monitoring group, Myanmar earned nearly US$100 million from taxes and royalties from the timber trade in fiscal 2017-18, while forestry as a whole generated a total of US$322 million.

In February 2021, Myanmar’s military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, accusing it of electoral fraud.

Human rights observers say nearly 1,500 people have been killed In the military crackdown that followed, some 11,500 people were arrested.

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, was arrested on Monday Sentenced She was sentenced to four years in prison on top of her previous two-year sentence, which critics said was politically motivated.

Human rights group Amnesty International called the new convictions “the latest in a hilarious trial of civilian leaders”.