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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Malaysia targets illegal timber
logs on trailer
Illegal logging threatens many of the world's species

A Malaysian minister has told the BBC he will act to block imports of illegal Indonesian logs, which have been turned into legitimate timber products for export to the UK and other markets.

Malaysia's Primary Industries Minister, Dr Lim King Yaik, said he would urge the Malaysian cabinet to impose a total ban on the imports within two weeks.

Timber products have been sold on to consumers in Britain who have no way of knowing that they are effectively buying stolen goods.

"I will ask our cabinet to agree with me and allow me to impose a ban on exports of logs, legal or illegal... I hope and I think within the next two weeks this announcement should come," Dr Lim told the BBC.

The Indonesian Government is trying to stop the destruction of the rainforests and has totally banned the export of uncut logs.

But some ministers admit that they cannot stop illegal felling because of widespread corruption, and they have asked other nations to help them by banning imports of illegal timber.

Illegal trade

Uncut round logs can be seen arriving by boat at Kuala Linggi, a new harbour built south of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Some of the timber boats from the Indonesian island of Sumatra even sport the Indonesian flag.

Environmentalists claim that the boats often change flags in mid-channel to avoid obvious detection.

Indonesian rainforests
Indonesia has about 10% of the world's remaining tropical forests - second only to Brazil
Forest cover fell from 162m ha (400,300,000 acres) in 1950 to 98m ha (242,200,000 acres) in 2000
Nearly 2m ha (4,942,000 acres) are now being destroyed every year
Source: World Resources Institute, Global Forest Watch, Forest Watch Indonesia
Developed nations including the UK are trying to stop the illegal trade.

Some 70% of Indonesian timber is thought to be illegal.

Malaysia's own internal record on illegal logging is much better. It has a mandatory one-year jail sentence for anyone caught for illegal logging.

But a Malaysian ban will badly affect some areas of the country which are heavily dependent on illegal log imports for their own timber industry.

Last month a United Nations report, Global Environment Outlook, warned that 15% of the Earth's land cover had been degraded by human activity - nearly a third of that due to deforestation.

See also:

22 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 May 02 | Science/Nature
24 Aug 99 | Science/Nature
03 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
20 May 99 | Asia-Pacific
20 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


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