By Kala Mulqueeny, William Schaedla
Earlier this month, leading government, industry and civil society leaders descended upon Naypyitaw for the 22nd World Economic Forum on East Asia. With Myanmar poised to take over as chair of ASEAN in 2014 leading up to the charted 2015 realization of the ASEAN Economic Community, the gathering marked a new milestone in Myanmar’s political and regional leadership. But one key issue was not squarely tabled.
As Chair of ASEAN, Myanmar would be well served to address the illegal wildlife trade. It is not only an environmental issue, but has economic, security, and health implications.
This year, the United Nations called illegal wildlife trafficking a serious transnational criminal activity because it has fueled and funded conflicts, terrorism and other illicit activity. Myanmar should focus on this issue or its omission will have grave costs.
Myanmar has some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. Its Northern Forest Complex is the home to elephants, bears, leopards, and hundreds of species of birds. At the core of the forest lies an 8,500 square mile tract—Myanmar’s Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the world’s largest tiger reserve, a place biologically critical in a world where only about 3,000 wild tigers remain. Myanmar also has the most elephants in Southeast Asia.
To protect this biodiversity, Myanmar has an elaborate system of forest laws, which pre-date the military government, and a new government commitment to ban all timber exports starting next year. More....