Junta officers implicated in rampant teak smuggling in Karen State

After the military coup, Karen citizens are reporting teak smuggling from the forest near the Taungoo-Thandaung highway, specifically between the 13-mile of Thandaung New Town and Pyarsakhan Village in Thandaung Gyi Township, Karen State.

According to a local woman, following the Junta ‘s seizure of power, there was a certain level of timber smuggling from the country’s teak forest. However since the beginning of this year, she observed the transportation of timber has become more brazen, with FAW vehicles openly involved in the smuggling activities.

She told KIC “At first people used small motorbikes to transport teak. Later I heard that some organizations got involved, and smuggled much larger volumes of teak. Now they openly transport it, and we are not able to complain to anyone. The original teak smugglers started from within the teak forest, so it’s not obvious from outside that teak is being smuggled.”

Another unnamed local woman disclosed that the teak smuggling groups consisted of militia members, commonly referred to as “peace members” under the Military Council, along with certain higher-ranking individuals from a group that are yet to be verified. When the local residents opposed their illicit activities, the smugglers resorted to threatening to deliver those individuals to the Military Council.

“One of the teak smugglers is a lieutenant serving as a member of the Than Daung Special Regional Peace Group under the military. Lately they carry out teak extraction even during daylight hours. Anyone who intervenes and tries to stop them is met with threats of arrest and delivering them to the military. This individual is not alone in their illicit activities, as there are also military officers involved in the smuggling operations,” said the woman.

According to a recent statement from the Thandaung People’s Defense Force, on July 4, Captain U Khin Maung Lwin and Bo Bara, peace members under the Military Council, were shot and killed along the Taungoo-Leiktho road. The Defense Force claims that the incident occurred while they were involved in timber smuggling activities for personal gain.

Throughout the entire month of July, from the 1st to the 31st, the Karen ethnic region (Kawthoolei) celebrates Tree Planting Month. In numerous locations across the region, local officials and community members come together to participate in planting trees as a collective effort.

However, residents in Thandaung Gyi Township are criticizing the lack of action taken against the smuggling of teak trees. They express concerns about the continuous cutting down of teak trees and the presence of threats, yet no effective measures have been implemented to address the issue.

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