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Friday, April 11, 2008

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Malaysia not involved in timber smuggling

By SIM LEOI LEOI


PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is not involved in the smuggling of timber from Indonesia, says Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui.

The minister's denial comes in the wake of Indonesia's latest claim and attempt to send a protest note on this matter.

"The Malaysian Government has until now not received any such formal protest note (from Indonesia).

"We wish to make it very clear that in supporting the trade in timber products, we don't condone any illegal activity," he told reporters Thursday after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the National Tobacco Board and four anchor companies here.

Chin said cross-border trade between Malaysia and Indonesia was regulated through two bilateral agreements.

"Timber products from Indonesia are allowed to be brought into the country only after the prescribed documents are produced for review.

"In the case of Sarawak, there are approved documents and procedures that have been agreed upon previously by parties for timber trade under the Cross-border Social, Security, Economic and Cultural Cooperation Committee," he said, adding that the understanding then was that legal Indonesian timber could only be allowed to enter Malaysia via "authorised points of entry".

"Timber accompanied by such documents is also required to go through Indonesian customs checkpoints first before coming into Sarawak.

"However, it is our view that traditional trade should be allowed as a way of improving living standards among local communities," said Chin.

He was commenting on a report quoting Indonesia's Forestry Minister M. S Kaban as saying that "Malaysia is behind the smuggling of timber" and that he would send a protest note.

Chin said last year, only 149,900 cubic metre of timber was imported from Indonesia, less than 2% of the total production of the commodity in Sarawak.

"Authorities also seized 27 cases where consignments have not followed procedures, involving 240 cubic metre of timber," he said.

Malaysia, said Chin, had also enforced various measures to curb timber smuggling from Indonesia, including banning imports of Indonesian round logs in 2002 and squared logs in 2003, as well as embarking on negotiations with the European Union to strengthen existing mechanisms on illegal timber.

"We also seek Indonesia's cooperation for a dialogue on how to resolve the common problems and find practical solutions," he said.

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The Troubled State of Kalimantan's Forest

Local autonomy and Malaysian investment drive illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo.
by Noriko Toyoda


Timber trucks at the border in Entikong
Dozens of truckloads of rough sawn timber pass through Sarawk customs at Entikong, West Kalimantan each day. Photo: WWF-Taman Nasional Betung Kerihun

As Indonesia's timber industry continues its awkward shift from the centralized control of the Suharto regime to local autonomy, illegal logging and inter-village strife is on the rise. With increasing demand for illegal logs, fueled in large part by Malaysian investors, nowhere is the struggle for control over logging concessions more contentious than in Kalimantan.

The "Gold Rush" for Kalimantan Timber

With the fall of Suharto in 1998, regional autonomy measures were introduced throughout Indonesia. One result has been that local governments in Indonesia are now able to issue their own logging permits. Previously, timber concessions were tightly controlled by the central government. Ironically, this shift to self-determination and local decision-making has given rise to increased illegal logging--estimated to account for 70% of Indonesian timber production.

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