Despite sanctions, Italy continues to import wood from Myanmar

A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency exposes the still flourishing trade. Teak is supplied to the rest of Europe, mainly in boatbuilding, such as luxury yachts. In Chin State, the military set fire to houses in a city abandoned by its residents because of the violence.


Yangon (AsiaNews) – The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international NGO dedicated to investigating environmental crime and abuse, found that more than 300 tonnes of timber worth € 2 million (US$ 2.3 million) arrived in Italy from Myanmar, this despite the impositions of sanctions by the European Union last June.

The economic sanctions, which the international community imposed after a military coup on 1 February, target the state-owned Myanmar Timber Enterprise, which is responsible for the teak trade. This type of hardwood is used mainly in luxury boatbuilding.

The EIA’s 18-month undercover investigation found that, although the European Union banned wood imports from the former Burma, some Italian traders have continued their business undisturbed, supplying it to the rest of the EU.

In March, April and May 2021 alone, Italian companies imported between € 1.3 and €1.5 million (US$ 1.5 to 1.7 million) worth of wood products from Myanmar.

The EIA notes that these companies are not only contributing to Myanmar’s deforestation (in last 20 years, the country has lost the equivalent of 5.6 million football pitches, an area the size of Switzerland), but are also helping the military junta that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government.

Meanwhile, witnesses recently told Myanmar Now that the soldiers set fire to about 50 houses in Thantlang. The town, which had a population of around 10,000, is now deserted after residents fled following clashes between the regular army and anti-coup groups, including local armed forces, most notably the Chinland Defence Force.