Indonesia Urges Global Boycott on Malaysian Timber

Although Malaysia and Indonesia acknowledge illegal trade of the rare ramin wood from Indonesia to Malaysia, both countries refuse to take responsibility. Malaysia claims the "onus is on Indonesia to upgrade their laws" to prevent smugglers from chopping rare trees; Indonesia accuses Kuala Lumpur of tacitly consenting to the importation of illegal wood. Meanwhile, Indonesia has called for a global boycott of Malaysian timber. UN officials and environmentalists have expressed concern over the timber sales, particularly because the ramin trees are in danger of extinction and are valuable to the region's eco-system. Unfortunately, illegal logging is difficult to monitor and even more difficult to prosecute. Until an effective international legal system is created to manage Indonesian forests and regulate logging, illegal logging will remain a contentious issue between Indonesia and Malaysia . – YaleGlobal

Indonesia Urges Global Boycott on Malaysian Timber

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja
Friday, February 13, 2004

The Indonesian government called for a worldwide boycott of wood products from Malaysia on Thursday, arguing that the country continued to buy illegal logs from Indonesia.

Forestry Minister M. Prakosa said Malaysia was the biggest buyer of Indonesia's illegal logs and had refused to act to solve the problem.

"That's why I call on governments such as those in the European Union not to import any wood products from Malaysia as they are using illegal logs from Indonesia," Prakosa announced before attending a Cabinet meeting.

The minister said that Malaysia laundered illegal ramin hardwood from Indonesia for furniture production.

"The Malaysian government even says that illegal logs in Indonesia are legal in Malaysia," Prakosa stated, adding that the government had repeatedly sent protests to the Malaysian government.

"I have repeatedly said at many international fora not to buy wood products from Malaysia because they are problematic," he said.

According to Prakosa, Malaysia had also refused to sign a memorandum of understanding on illegal logs.

Meanwhile, activists at a United Nations (UN) environmental conference accused host-country Malaysia on Thursday of turning a blind eye to large-scale smuggling of illegal timber from Indonesia, provoking strong denials from Kuala Lumpur.

AFP reported that the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and several U.S. non-governmental organizations have called on the U.S. to impose trade sanctions against Malaysia over the smuggling of ramin hardwood, an endangered species found only in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The evidence is documented in its report, Profiting from Plunder," which details how ramin is allegedly smuggled from Indonesia into Malaysia to be made into furniture for export with false documentation and how local officials facilitated the illegal trade.

"Sanctions are always a last resort but we want all trade in ramin to be suspended for the time being until the Malaysian government has shown concrete evidence that they have cracked down on the illegal trade," EIA president Allan Thornton said.

The EIA distributed the report, a culmination of two years of investigations by EIA and its Indonesian partner Telapak, on the sidelines of the conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

But Malaysian officials fought back at a news conference, saying they had taken the necessary measures to curb the smuggling of illegal timber from Indonesia.

"We have strengthened our laws and enforced the laws. As far as Malaysia is concerned, illegal logging is not an issue... the onus is on Indonesia to upgrade their laws," said Malaysia's primary industry deputy secretary-general Suboh Mohamad Yassin.

Prakosa added that the Malaysians should not deny the report as there was solid evidence of the activities of receiving illegal ramin hardwood from Indonesia.

"Why should they deny it, when there is a lot of evidence proving that they continue to receive our illegal logs," he said.

He also stated that the government was trying to produce a single regulation to curb smuggling across the country.

© The Jakarta Post