YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — The Myanmar army has arrested more than 100 foreigners and 20 Myanmar nationals for illegal logging near the Chinese border, the defense ministry said Tuesday.
It said the army also seized 436 logging trucks, 14 pickup trucks loaded with logs, stimulant drugs, raw opium and Chinese currency during the three-day operation.
The ministry did not identify the nationality of the 102 foreigners, but said the illegal logging took place in Kachin state near the Myanmar-Chinese border. In a statement, it said the raids followed an aerial survey of logging activities in the state.
It said the army also seized a document allegedly signed by an ethnic Kachin Independence Army economic officer allowing logging in the area, where fighting between Kachin rebels and government troops erupted four years ago.
Rising prosperity and growth as a global manufacturer have driven Chinese demand for wood. It banned the felling of its own old-growth trees in 1998, fuelling the illegal import of wood, especially high-value varieties such as rosewood and teak.
However, efforts in recent years in Myanmar to curb smuggling are believed to have succeeded in reducing the volume.
Myanmar banned the export of logs in April last year to reduce deforestation and boost its wood-based industry by exporting only value-added products.
According to the most recent available official data, Myanmar's forest cover shrank from 57.9 percent of its land area in 1990 to 47.6 percent in 2005.