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Source:   Rainforest Action Network
Status:   Distribute freely properly accredited  
Date:     January 30, 1998

For immediate release, January 30, 1998

Press contacts:  
Beto Borges


The government of the Brazilian state of Amazonas has put a hold on investment projects totaling millions of dollars put forward by logging companies from China and Malaysia. Major players include the WTK Group, Samling, Mingo, and Rimbunan Hijau. These operations were the focus of a Rainforest Action Network letter-writing campaign - over 5,000 letters were sent via RAN's interactive web page alone.

Over the past several months RAN's Brazil Program Director Beto Borges has been working closely with Jose Lutzenberger, formerly Brazil's Secretary of the Environment and currently special consultant to the Government of Amazonas, to develop a strategic response to escalating rainforest destruction.

In particular, the role of Asian logging companies in Brazil's Amazon region has come under fire. Late last year, a federal Congressional committee issued a report highlighting the continuing destruction of the rainforest by these companies. Earlier this week, the Brazilian government released figures showing that the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed at record rates. Brazil's Environment Minister Gustavo Krause commented that although no figures have been prepared to document the specific impact of the Asian logging companies, they were fined in excess of $1 million for illegal logging last year.

Last September RAN's Beto Borges testified before the congressional committee investigating the East Asian logging companies.

" The same companies now cutting trees in the Amazon," Mr. Borges warned, "worked with such rapacious speed in Sarawak, Malaysia, that they devastated the region's forests within a decade."

Mr. Borges also cautioned Brazil not to repeat the U.S. model of industrial logging that has left standing a scant 4 percent of its original forests.

The congressional report alleged that regional functionaries were offering incentives for these companies to set up in the region. The authorities in Amazonas deny this, and have announced that they will put new projects on hold on the grounds that Asian companies already operating in Amazonas are failing to comply with forestry laws, and are refusing to pay fines.

RAN works closely with environmental groups in Brazil, and was aware from ground reports that deforestation was rampant. The figures released this week by Brazil's government confirm what environmental and human rights organizations have long held to be true. Between 1978 and 1996, more than 12.5 percent of the vast, irreplaceable rainforest has been destroyed, according to the report.

These figures are particularly embarrassing to Brazil, and elements of the government stonewalled releasing the data.

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