Convinced of Myanmar’s positive intent

Barber Cho, Secretary of the Myanmar Forest Certification Comittee (MFCC), says there is some way to go to build trust and communication between the timber trade and forestry authorities of the EU and Myanmar. However, he’s convinced of Myanmar’s commitment to further raise standards of  forest management and its timber legality assurance system (MTLAS). 
Mr Cho held up recent allegations of  EU Timber Regulation breaches on imports of Myanmar teak into Sweden and Denmark as evidence of continuing misunderstandings between EU and Myanmar trade and authorities, and the need for greater liaison.
“The Swedish and Danish authorities showed possible misunderstanding of EU Timber Regulation due diligence rules,” he said. “Due diligence has three components; access to information, risk assessment and risk mitigation. The Myanmar ‘Green Book’ of  timber sourcing information provided an element of  ‘access to information’. But the onus was still on the importers and EUTR authorities to undertake the risk assessment and mitigation elements.”
Myanmar, he acknowledged, “may not have the perfect system of traceability and legality”. But it had committed to reform and to enter an EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement and its efforts should be acknowledged.
“The Forest Department, for example, has already announced an export ban of confiscated timber and material from conflict and conversion forest,” said Mr Cho. “It will also not permit harvest levels to exceed the annual allowable cut, which is itself half previous levels.”
He added that the acceptance of the MFCC’s recent MTLAS gap analysis results by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) also underlined the country’s positive intent.
“And the minister agreed with MFCC’s proposal to take a multi-stakeholder approach when the MTLAS is reviewed and to ensure that the review process is transparent,” said Mr Cho. “In addition, the Myanmar government has made clear its intent to eradicate illegal logging.”
He concluded that the Yangon MTLAS Gap Analysis Workshop and other meetings earlier this year between Myanmar and EU authorities and trade representatives showed the way forward.
“Meetings like these , where all players join in with no preconditions or prejudice to listen and learn from each other are always fruitful,” he said.