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Extra info for Cut and Run: Illegal Logging and Timber Trade in the Tropics
In Myanmar, rebel groups and Thai loggers established at least 200 illegal sawmills around 1990 to process logs taken from outside concession areas (Callister 1992). One of the most in-depth investigations of the role of foreign — mostly Japanese and later, Malaysian — logging companies at the country level was conducted by an official commission of inquiry led by Judge Barnett in Papua New Guinea. The report revealed widespread abuse of power, corruption of cabinet ministers, transfer pricing as a standard practice, offences against local community rights, and blatant violations of regulations on the forest floor.
Systematic corruption plagues the forestry sector in many countries, although economic crises and short-sighted foreign economic-aid programs are important underlying factors. These programs call for a reduction in state budgets, including forest services, and promote the accelerated export of natural commodities, including timber, with little concern for sustainability. A case study published by FoE–EWNI (1992) presented a detailed account of corruption, fraud, and malpractice in Ghana (see also Chapter 4).
Then, just as money is laundered by passing through several hands, so too are the logs passed from one operation to another until they enter the world of commerce as if they had been harvested legally and sustainably. Most of the wood ends up serving the needs of those who live well to the north or to the south of the countries where the original, illegal harvesting took place. For obvious reasons, it is extraordinarily hard to get accurate information about illegal forest activities. Not a few forest rangers have been killed in their attempts to protect the forest.