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website 30 Aug 05
Malaysia To Introduce Prison Sentences for Illegal Logging
By Associated Press
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The government will impose mandatory prison terms to punish people who illegally harvest wood from rain forests in Malaysia, one of the world's largest exporters of tropical timber, authorities said Tuesday.
Anyone involved in illegal logging will face jail sentences of between one year and 20 years under new laws expected to be ready within six months, said Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The current penalty of a fine has failed to curb illegal logging, which is believed to be actively perpetrated by a small number of timber trade syndicates, Najib was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.
"Such actions can undermine the quality of our water and air, threaten water catchment areas and lead to other problems such as floods and droughts," Najib said.
Activists have long said illegal logging is damaging the environment in the country's jungles, found mainly in central peninsular Malaysia and Borneo island. These forests in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia are home to orangutans, rhinoceros, tigers and other endangered animals.
Sawn timber is often smuggled to other countries in Asia, such as China and Taiwan, where the wood is used for furniture, baby cribs, picture frames and other items to be exported to U.S. and European markets, environmentalists have said.
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