Nearly 1,600 tonnes of teak from Myanmar were exported to US companies last year, circumventing sanctions imposed to deny the junta millions of dollars in profits, an activist group said on Tuesday.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since a February 1 coup triggered widespread unrest that the military has sought to quell with violence – killing around 1,400 people, according to a local monitoring group.
Washington responded by imposing sanctions on Myanmar’s military and its affiliated companies, including Myanma Timber Enterprise, which manages timber sales across the country.
Among the most popular type of Myanmar wood is teak, long favoured by shipbuilders and furniture makers for its durability in wet environments.
Teak imports to the US were supposed to be barred under targeted sanctions, but activist group Justice for Myanmar found that nearly 1,600 tonnes of timber reached American companies between February and the end of November last year.
“The timber arrived in 82 different shipments… largely consisting of teak board and scantling that are used for shipbuilding, outdoor decking and furniture,” the group said, citing figures from global trade database Panjiva.
Justice for Myanmar called on the US government to ban all Myanmar timber imports.
According to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global monitoring group, Myanmar received almost $100 million in revenues from taxes and royalties on the timber trade in the 2017-2018 financial year, while revenues for the entire forestry industry totalled $322 million.
- AFP, with additional editing by George Russell