EU sanctions no ‘silver bullet’ against Myanmar’s illegal timber trade, experts say
22 July 2021
The European Union has imposed new sanctions on a state-owned timber enterprise in Myanmar following the coup in February, as part of an international effort targeting businesses whose profits are funding the country’s military leadership.
EU officials last month sanctioned Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE), an entity under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC). Since MTE regulates all harvesting and sales of Myanmar timber, including exports to international markets, the sanctions mean it is now illegal for businesses in the EU to directly import any timber from Myanmar.
But while NGOs have lauded the MTE sanctions for sending a strong political signal against Myanmar’s timber trade as a source of funding for its armed forces, experts say their impact could be limited.
For one, the forestry industry in Myanmar has waned in financial importance in the past few years. [...]
Johannes Zahnen, forestry officer at WWF-Germany, said the EU should impose sanctions on all Myanmar timber instead, calling sanctions against a company like MTE “easier to circumvent.” “Only when the EUTR and sanctions are consistently implemented on [a] country level can things change. Until now, unscrupulous companies can still circumvent sanctions by buying timber indirectly — for example, by buying timber from Myanmar through [a third country],” he said. The European Commission did not respond to a request for comment.