Illegal loggers to be imprisoned in Malaysia, executed in Indonesia
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
August 30, 2005
According to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, anyone involved in illegal logging will face jail sentences of between one year and 20 years under the new laws.
World's oldest forests replaced with palm oil plantations
Once home to extensive forest cover, during the 1980s and 1990s Malaysia became the leading exporter of tropical timber. Forests across Malaysian Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah) were decimated by industrial logging operations and clearing for agriculture, especially palm oil plantations. Today less than half the country's natural forest cover remains and deforestation has been blamed both for water shortages around Kuala Lumpur and flooding.
Relations between Indonesia and its neighbors are tense over the haze. Malaysia and Singapore have offered assistance in fighting the blaze, while simultaneously placing blame on the country for its lack of progress in controlling the wild fires. Indonesia in turn has blamed Malaysian firms for rampant illegal logging in the country which has left its forests more susceptible to conflagrations. Last year, in an effort to reduce prohibited forest exploitation, Indonesian lawmakers proposed implementing the death penalty for illegal loggers and fire starters.
Malaysia's remaining old growth forests are, biologically, some of the richest on the planet and are home to a number of endangered species including forest elephants, rhinos, orangutans, tigers, monkeys, and tapir. The government has been working to encourage ecotourism but still struggles policing its own forests. Malaysian firms have also been implicated in illegal logging and timber smuggling elsewhere. Last year an investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a US-based environmental group, found that hardwood is illegally logged in Indonesia and smuggled into Malaysia, where dealers slap on fake labels describing the wood as "Malaysian origin." The wood is then shipped to China where finished products for sale in other parts of Asia, the United States, and Western Europe.
This article used information from the Associated Press and Environmental the Investigation Agency.