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  PlanetArk 10 May 07
Malaysia Cracks Down on Smuggled Indonesian Logs

KUALA LUMPUR - Increased security on the Malaysian-Indonesian border on Borneo has helped curb smuggling of Indonesian logs into Malaysia, military chiefs from both sides said on Thursday.

Malaysia has deployed some 1,300 troops along the porous and densely forested border with Indonesia's Kalimantan on Borneo island, defence chief General Abdul Aziz Zainal said.

"With joint and coordinated patrols by both sides, we are seeing a reduction in the smuggling activities," he said after meeting his Indonesian counterpart, Djoko Suyanto.

Environmental groups have warned that Indonesia was failing in its efforts to break powerful syndicates responsible for massive illegal logging that is costing the country US$4 billion annually.

The quantity of timber illegally taken from Indonesia's tropical forests is rising again after some successes in 2005 and 2006, said a report published in March by two conservation groups, the Environmental Investigation Agency and Telapak.

Malaysia and China were major recipients of stolen timber, the report said.

At the height of illegal logging in the late 1990s, Indonesia lost 2.8 million ha (6.9 million acres) of forests a year, with satellite images showing 60 million ha (150 million acres) of forests in a severely damaged state.

Experts have warned that Indonesia's forests could be virtually wiped out by 2022.

Suyanto, the Indonesian defence chief, said Jakarta was doing its best to curb illegal logging. "We don't close our eyes on illegal logging. The problem still exists as the border on Borneo covers thousands of kilometres and it's difficult to monitor every kilometre.

"But we are committed in tackling the problem," he said.

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