Maungdaw: Officers of the Burmese border security force Nasaka and the forestry department in the border townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw in Arakan State are smuggling timber into Bangladesh, said local wood cutters.
“A Nasaka officer and a forester are now smuggling out timber and bamboo to Bangladesh after forcibly buying them from us. We have to sell our products to them even though they pay a much lower price for the products because they have restricted us from selling the products to others”,said a wood cutter from Kyeinchaung Village in Maungdaw.
He said the officers who are working together with their cross-border illegal trades of timber and bamboo are Captain Than Swe of the Nasaka and Forester Ngwe Than of the forestry department, which are based in Kyeinchaung Village.
“The officers are now forcibly buying one cubic feet of yellow-champak at 2,700 kyat and 100 bamboos at 2,500 kyat from us, but they get 3,600 Taka for one cubic feet of champak and 3,200 Taka for 100 bamboo sticks after smuggling them to Bangladesh”, he said.
The border currency exchange rate between Burma and Bangladesh at present is 930 kyat for 100 Taka.
The wood cutter said that those officers are forcibly buying the timber and bamboo from the wood cutters in the villages of Kyeinchaung, Khamaungseik, Taungbro and Aungthapyay in northern Maungdaw Township.
A villager from Bukali Village in Buthidaung Township also said army, Nasaka and forestry officials based in the area force the local villagers to cut woods for their cross-border trades as well.
“The army, Nasaka and forestry have come to our villages of Bukali and Thanzay and forced the villagers to find and cut the wood of Yellow-Champak from the nearby jungles, as the Champak can earn high prices in the markets of neighboring Bangladesh”, said the villager.
According to the source, Major Lin Myat from the Military Operation Command or Sa-Ka-Kha (9), the forester and Nasaka Captain Nyan Thu of the Saidin have forced the villagers to cut wood for them, in order to smuggle out the wood to Bangladesh in partnerships with local businessmen.
A resident living in a village on the bank of Naf River in Bangladesh also said the exports of Burmese timbers through the land port in Teknaf in Bangladesh are currently increasing as the timber is now directly coming from Maungdaw, situated on the other side of Naf River opposite of the port.
“The export of Burmese timber through the Teknaf port into Bangladesh is currently increasing because the timber is coming into the port not only from other parts of Burma by sea route, but also directly from the Maungdaw crossing of the Naf River. The port here is now jammed with timber boats coming from Burma everyday”, said the resident.
The timber is not officially allowed to be exported to Bangladesh, but timber is smuggled out into Bangladesh from Burma with the involvement and collusion of Burmese officials.
According to the local villagers, no one dares complain of the violations perpetuated by the army and Nasaka forces to the higher authorities as those forces are the most powerful institutions in the border townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw in Arakan State.