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Bolstering inter-agency cooperation on combating transnational border crime in Thailand

Bangkok (Thailand), 23 May 2011
- From 18 to 19 May 2011, the Government of Thailand and UNODC, in collaboration with the Freeland foundation, the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), organized a workshop aimed at improving cooperation among enforcement agencies responsible for protecting the border.

Sharing a border with four other countries and boasting two major coastlines, Thailand is an attractive target for organized criminal networks looking to move illicit commodities into and out of Asia. Thai authorities do not yet have the operational capacity to comprehensively monitor and control all border areas, which means some spots are left vulnerable to exploitation. Despite best efforts, porous borders remain a reality and ensure that attempts to smuggle illicit commodities, like drugs, human beings, wildlife, timber, and hazardous waste, into and out of the country are not only constant, but regularly successful.

During the meeting, UNODC presented findings from a recent survey of Thai officials working at the borders of Cambodia, Myanmar and the Lao People's Democratic Republic. According to UNODC officials, "drug trafficking is still perceived as the most serious form of cross-border illegal activities, but migrant smuggling and human trafficking are also significant concerns deserving of attention". The survey found that 82 per cent of officers believe illegal migrants cross the borders with the help of smugglers and that the exploitation of men for labor is the most common form of human trafficking. Particularly along the Myanmar border, the exploitation of men for labor is followed closely by the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation. The seriousness of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants is notable in the Ranong province of Thailand, where officers from this area perceive these issues to be the most serious form of border crime.

On the final day, participants agreed to establish an inter-agency committee with a mandate to monitor and report on the progress of cooperation efforts between agencies in Thailand and with agencies in its neighboring countries. Through the co-ordination of the Department of Special Investigations in the Ministry of Justice, the committee will consist of senior officials from the Customs Office, Immigration Office, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Industry, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. September 2011 is the scheduled date for the first meeting.

The workshop was held as part of the UNODC project on Partnership Against Transnational-crime through Regional Organized Law-enforcement (PATROL).