Overview of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade: Baseline Study 4 - Myanmar

TitleOverview of Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade: Baseline Study 4 - Myanmar
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsWoods K, Canby K
Key themesAccessToJustice, Dispossession-grabbing, FDI, MarginalisedPeople

In the early 20th century, the scientific management of Myanmar’s natural forests under the Myanmar Selection System (MSS) was world-renown.1 By the 1970s, the MSS began to break down. Today, the application of scientific forestry in the country has been marginalized. Timber remains a significant source of revenue, although relatively less for the national Myanmar government as multi-billion dollar oil, gas, hydropower and other energy related contracts surge. Timber and other forest products represent a significant source of income for ethnic political groups, most notably in Kachin State along the border with China and Karen State along the Thai border. The Government of Myanmar has established development priorities in a number of sectors, including agriculture and forestry, but these plans are not detailed and mainly focus on output indicators. Overall, 70% of Myanmar’s population residing in rural areas (50-60% of the estimated total population of 60 million) depend heavily on forests for their basic needs (FAO, 2009). Some 500,000 people are thought to be dependent on the forestry sector for employment. The contribution of forestry to GDP was an estimated 1% in 1997–98 (ITTO, 2006), but timber exports alone constitute approximately 10% of Myanmar’s total official export earnings. Teak alone contributes 60-70% of the export earnings from forest products, but these exports are of an increasingly low-grade, which command lower prices than the high-quality teak that made Myanmar famous. Myanmar remains one of the world’s only countries with no prohibitions on log exports. The country provides much coveted teak and other hardwood logs to the region and beyond. Sawn wood, and to a lesser extent finished wood products, contribute a relatively small amount to Myanmar’s total exports of wood products. As in the majority of Mekong countries, one of the most significant trends affecting forest lands in Myanmar relates to the considerable, and often times informal, foreign direct investments (FDI) in agribusiness plantations such as rubber, oil palm, timber plantation, cashew nut and other horticultural crops. FD are also being made in other resource sector developments, including hydropower and mineral extraction. These types of developments often require the clearing of natural forest areas and has led to land disputes with local communities. Virtually all FDI in Myanmar currently comes from other Asian countries, notably Thailand, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.


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