Myanmar’s military coup linked to illegal deforestation to finance oppressor military regime

Satellite images show evidence suggesting that Myanmar’s coup d’état increased the risk of unsustainable deforestation in the country. As western powers impose sanctions, the situation may be ripe for escalation. Experts say the military junta wants to make quick cash. China was observed as a buyer.

Image: Wikipedia/Dreamstime
Deforestation already increased before the coup, but have since further deteriorated, experts says (Chart: TJ)
January (left) and April (right) images of Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park in Sagaing region.

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Sales of confiscated timber

Where deforestation took place since the coup

Coastal Rakhine state:

Deforestation in the coastal state of Rakhine (black border) took place before the coup but now with less oversight and a money-making incentive by the military junta, risks for illegal and unsustainable deformation increase. In pink, areas of heavy forest loss, cumulated forest loss between 2018 and 2020 (source: Mapbox, Google Earth Engine, Carto, Planet Labs)
Evidence for deforestation since the coup in the areas around the township of Ann, comparing it before and after the coup (Image: Planet Labs)

Kachin state:

Deforestation hotspot in the northern state of Kachin which shares a border with China to its north and east. China was identified as a valid wood and timber business partner. Experts worry it might increasingly ‘fill the void’ [replacing other international partners] and become a buyer and potential investors in commodities like palm oil and timber without minding environmental and ethical considerations.
Recorded change in and around Myitkyina

Investigative journalist with a technical edge, interested in open source investigations, satellite imgs, R, python, AI, data journalism and injustice