The illegal logging of rosewood in Myanmar and throughout the region highlights the challenge of preservation in the absence of adequate enforcement.

Corruption is also a contributing factor, with smuggling gangs prepared to pay big bribes to get log shipments across borders.

“Corruption plays a significant role,” in the rosewood trade, says the EIA report.

“The financial incentives for illegal logging and timber smuggling present serious governance challenges for any country suffering a Chinese rush on Hongmu and Myanmar is no exception,” it says.

The report cited a Yangon media report that truck drivers were being paid up to K9,000,000 for a trip to deliver rosewood from Mandalay to Muse, on the border with China.

“Signs are already emerging that government officials are taking bribes to allow illegal transports of tamalan and padauk across the China land border,” the EIA report says.

Adequate enforcement is a continuing issue for environmental protection, agreed Frank Momberg, director of the Myanmar branch of bio-diversity NGO, Flora and Flora International.

Siamese rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinesis) is listed on CITES Appendix II but stocks of the trees in Thailand have been devastated by illegal logging, an issue attracting national attention as authorities do what they can to protect the surviving trees, including a new forestry policy allowing suspects to be arrested on the spot.

The number of arrests in Thailand for poaching the trees rose to 244 last month, up from 80 in May, the Bangkok Post reported on July 1.

The May figure includes arrests from Thailand’s biggest seizure of illegally harvested Siamese rosewood. In early July, the Bangkok Post reported rosewood seizures worth about K30 billion in northeastern Thailand, from where the logs are smuggled through Laos to China.

In Cambodia, the illegal harvesting of the protected species has led to dozens of deaths in confrontations between illegal loggers and forest rangers.

One Myanmar environmental organisation says it’s possible some rosewood stocks in the country benefit from being far from the border with China.

“There appears to be a lot of rosewood and padauk depletion in Kachin and Shan states and Sagaing Region where it is easier to take it out of the country,” said a spokesperson for the Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association, who asked not to be named.

“But there are also large densities in Magway Region and around Bago which are quite far from the Chinese border,” the FREDA spokesperson said.

“The danger of commercial extinction could be less than what the report suggests as smuggling from Magway and Bago would hard to export and easier to police as Nay Pyi Taw is much closer,” the spokesperson said.