Malaysia has rejected the Environmental Investigation Agency‘s proposal to ban the trading of ramin for a year to allow the free trade zone law to be amended.

Under current law, the Malaysian Timber Industry Board does not have authority to enter and inspect the activities of the free trade zone (FTZ).

The EIA called for the ban following the claims in its report “Profiting from plunder: how Malaysia smuggles endangered wood”, that illegal Indonesian ramin is smuggled through Malaysia to the world market.

Malaysia’s primary industries minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik said he could not support the proposal because there was “no problem with Malaysian ramin” and the welfare of legitimate ramin traders also had to be considered.

Speaking at a meeting with the EIA, Telapak and other NGOs, Dr Lim acknowledged legal loopholes concerning the FTZ legislation and said the matter would be investigated.

Dr Lim added that he could not dismiss his suspicions that the EIA had published its report because Malaysia has objected to ramin’s listing on Appendix III of CITES and introduced its own certification scheme.

He also criticised Telapak, saying it should tackle the so-called ramin king Jambi Lee, the Indonesian trader who allegedly controls the illegal ramin trade.

He had further criticism for the Indonesian forestry minister’s call for the EU to ban imports of Malaysian timber.