[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
Teak Week of Action
R A I N F O R E S T R E L I E F ' S
T E A K W E E K O F A C T I O N
July 1 - July 7, 1997
Protesting the continuing oppression of the Burmese people and
the destruction of their rainforests by the SLORC.
Burma is the source of the majority of internationally traded teak.
BURMA'S REIGN OF TERROR
"TEAK IS TORTURE"
A military coup in Burma in 1962 began a reign of terror and oppression that
continues to this day. In 1988, after tens of thousands of Burmese rallied for
democracy, the military junta formed the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration
Council) to "keep order", composed of numerous high-level generals, and then
gunned down thousands of demonstrators. In the following years continued
protests brought about general elections. The democratic party won over 80% of
the Parliamentary seats. However, the military declared the elections null and
void and refused to yield power. The SLORC generals use forced labor, rape,
torture, forced relocation and intimidation to control the people of Burma.
Until recently, large areas of southern and eastern Burma had remained
relatively free from military rule due to resistance of numerous indigenous
ethnic groups such as the Mon, Karen and Karenni. However, with massive inputs
of new capital, largely from selling natural gas concessions offshore, a
"cleansing" operation has ensued. Much of this capital has come from the
American energy giants, Unocal and Texaco; the French energy giant, Total and a
Thai company, PTT. The "cleansing" involves burning villages, raping and
torturing villagers, forced labor and forced relocation. Another prize: the
intact hardwood forests of the south.
Cases of forced labor have been documented by the SLORC in logging operations.
Burma is home to the world's last primary teak forests and some of the largest
virgin rainforests remaining in mainland Asia -- which are now being liquidated
to fund the SLORC's rule. Many of these forests are home to rare species such as
the Asian Rhino, Asian Elephant and others.
The SLORC is now once again increasing hardwood logging. Teak and hardwood
harvest increased dramatically in the early 1990, then fell when the borders
with Thailand were closed and is now again on the rise. State-run total hardwood
extraction in 1991-92 was over one million cubic tons. The SLORC-controlled
Minister for Forestry, Lieutenant General Chit Shwe, recently stated that teak
forests will be logged to increase economic development, calling for full
support of the private sector in the development of "forestry". The SLORC is
providing assistance to private companies for expansion and investment, having
exempted forestry products exports from commercial tax since May, 1996.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, calls
this kind of economic "development" "crony capitalism". The generals and their
friends get rich, while the Burmese populace starves.
Taking advantage of the tax holiday, Sunwood Industries Plc's holding company,
the Sunti Forestry group, is building high-tech teak processing factories in
Burma which will provide a steady flow of teak furniture parts for Sun,
Thailand's largest exporter of teak furniture.
Sunti Forestry Group is one of the world's largest exporters of teak furniture,
mostly to markets in the United States, Europe and Japan.
THE IMPORTER'S ROLE
IN the US, teak is used for indoor and outdoor furniture, interior trim, boat
trim & decking and small consumer items like spice racks, salad bowls and napkin
Some of the largest buyers in Europe are the Scandinavian furniture
manufacturers which supply Scandinavian furniture stores in the US and Europe
such as Scandinavian Design, Happy Viking, Scan Design, Dania, etc. Most of
these individually operated stores carry similar inventories, buying from the
same suppliers. They claim, of course, that selling teak helps the people of
"Myanmar" achieve economic "development" and gives them jobs but fail to
mention that the SLORC is using the money from the sale of teak to buy more
weapons to use against the very people the companies say they are benefitting.
With the full support of the Burmese democratic government-in-exile, Rainforest
Relief has called for an international boycott of teak from Burma. Since most
of the teak exported from Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan is Burmese in origin,
this includes teak from those countries until they can prove it is not from
Rainforest Relief is against the logging, export. import or purchase of tropical
rainforest woods unless they originate from an operation that has been
certified by an idependent organization accredited by the Forest Stewardship
What You Can Do:
We can pressure Burmese teak logging by pressuring consumers in the US,
Europe and Japan to stop buying teak furniture and other teak products from
Organize a demonstration at the Scandinavian furniture retailer nearest you
(you can find them in the phone book under Furniture -- Retail. Look for
"Scandinavian designs" or "teak" in the ads).
Go in and ask them where the wood comes from (they will probably have some
propaganda to hand you about sustainable production and plantations).
Write to the heads of these stores asking them to cease selling teak (and
mahogany) unless it is independently certified. Let them know you are planning
to demonstrate in July, and give them a reasonable date by which to respond to
your letter. They will either not respond, or they'll tell you to take a hike
(which you should do anyway, in a forest near you).
Organize rallies in front of these stores between July 1st and 7th. Signs can
read: "Leave Burma's Teak Forests Alone", "[Store Name] Out of the Rainforests",
"Stop Funding Human Rights Abuses in Burma", "When You Buy Teak,
You Pay For Rape and Torture of the Burmese People", "No Teak For Guns",
"This Furniture is Stained With the Blood of Innocent Burmese", etc.
Contact Rainforest Relief for flyer originals and further information.
Get your town to pass a tropical timber resolution barring the use of tropical
hardwoods unless they are independently certified (call, write or email us for
Get your school or workplace to pass a resolution to do the same.
Let's leave Burma's forests for the Burmese, the Rhinos and the Elephants.
WHY NOT TO BUY TEAK
When you buy a teak wood product you are funding the destruction of tropical
forests and the illegal military regime of Burma. The demand for teak is fueling
massive deforestation in Burma, having been responsible for the loss of entire
forests in many other countries. The repressive illegal regime of Burma is
selling off its teak and other hardwoods to pay for the purchase of arms to
quell the democracy movement.
TROPICAL FORESTS AT RISK
Teak (Tectona grandis) is native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and
India. Teak logging began in earnest in the area during the British colonial
period. British demand for teak ships eliminated most teak in India and
eventually Thailand. Thailand and more recently Cambodia, have had to institute
bans on the export of unprocessed logs in an attempt to slow deforestation that
has led to massive flooding and drought in those countries. Current teak
production now comes almost entirely from Burma.
Teak logging, like most tropical logging, causes extreme degradation to the
tropical forest. Since teak trees are sporadically dispersed throughout the
forest, loggers travel further into the primary forest creating miles of roads
to haul logs to mills. Logging roads play a fundamental role in allowing further
deforestation of primary forests in Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
In addition, Burmese and Thai loggers use elephants to move logs around,
drugging the animals with large amounts of amphetamines, to which they can
become addicted. Many elephants get sick and die because of overwork due
to the pressure to log teak at ever faster rates.
In 1988, the Burmese military government gunned down thousands of
pro-democracy demonstrators. Forced to have general elections in 1990, the
military declared the elections null and void when the democracy party, the
NLD, won over 80% of the Parliamentary seats. Since then, the military regime
in Burma renaming themselves the State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC) has ruled the country using repression, torture, imprisonment, rape
and murder to hod on to power.
Additionally, it's estimated that half of the government's income is from
trafficking in heroin, as Burma is the source for an estimated 60% of the world
Teak is the second largest legal money-maker for the SORC. In 1992-93, Burma
extracted nearly one million cubic tons of teak logs with state owned or
contracted operations, up from 700,000 in 1983.
Claims that teak production helps the Burmese people are false, since the
democratically elected government has never been allowed to take office, and
funds generated from teak and heroin sales are not going any further then the
pockets of the generals and their rich friends.
THE IMPORTER'S ROLE
China is the largest importer of teak logs from Burma, with Thailand the second
largest. Much of this teak is processed for re-export as furniture and small
consumer items. The United States and Europe are the final destinations of large
amounts of teak, either lumber or finished products. Much of the teak lumber
imports are used in construction of yachts and boats, a luxury the Burmese can
What You Should Do
By buying Burmese teak you are threatening the largest remaining pristine
tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize
laureate, has asked that other nations stop investing in Burma until democracy
can be restored.
Do not buy (or, if you are an architect or interior designer, do not specify)
teak or other tropical hardwoods unless they are certified as coming from an
ecologically sound operation (less than 1% of production). If you have questions
about these claims, call Rainforest Relief for verification. We can also supply
you with information on sources of certified tropical woods.
Boycott stores that sell teak that is not certified. Common outlets include
"Scandinavian" furniture stores. You probably have one in your area. Call
Rainforest Relief to coordinate demonstrations and other actions at these