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Thailand and UNODC hold ASEAN integration and border security dialogue in Bangkok

Bangkok (Thailand), 2 May 2018
- 200 ASEAN region, development bank, diplomatic and UN officials are in Bangkok for a high-level conference organized by the Government of Thailand and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to discuss improving border management to counter accelerating and changing transnational organized crime and security challenges. Thailand and UNODC are working together to identify practical solutions to cross-border challenges that can be agreed prior to the Thai chairmanship of ASEAN in 2019.

Trade flows within the region have quadrupled over the past decade and are now estimated to exceed US$ 280 billion annually, and are expected to reach US$ 375 billion per year by 2025, and infrastructure is being connected and planned to facilitate fast and efficient cross-border movements. At the same time the criminal economy of East and Southeast Asia is growing alongside the expansion of the legitimate economy, with conservative estimates of the value of regional transnational organised crime revenues exceeding US$ 100 billion annually - more than the gross domestic product of several ASEAN member states. There are also noticeable changes underway in some parts of the illicit economy and markets of the region, including a significant increase in synthetic drug production and trafficking, growing timber and wildlife trafficking, and indications of new human trafficking and migrant smuggling patterns.

As the conference got underway Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister of Thailand Prajin Juntong remarked, "ASEAN economic and trade flows will continue to increase. While this is positive, it also provides increased opportunities for transnational crime groups who do not respect our borders. Illegal activities like trafficking often mirror legal flows and movements of goods and services, and as the economy expands criminal and even terrorist networks will look for ways to benefit." He added, "This is why we are partnering with UNODC on border liaison offices. They have the ability to gather states to discuss problems and formulate strategies, but also to offer practical solutions like BLOs."

Minister of Transport of Thailand Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, noted that "for ASEAN, the relevance of border management can only increase as significant investments are being made in infrastructure across the region. We need to ensure that measures to address security concerns are integrated during the planning phase. What we see as opportunities for economic and social development are seen by others as openings to expand cross-border criminal activity."

The conference is the fourth on border management organized by Thailand and UNODC, and builds on recent strategic discussions related to ASEAN Community economic and security integration. In 2015 UNODC started partnering with Thailand on border management and supporting related consultations, while also scaling-up technical assistance through its regional programme that helps to secure borders from crime. UNODC now supports 76 border liaison office locations across the Mekong and will be expanding the network to other parts of the ASEAN region.

UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Jeremy Douglas commented, "As ASEAN integration continues and accelerates, the disparities between countries of the region are becoming more obvious, and this includes significant differences in capacities to manage borders. The problem is that transnational organised crime take advantage of disparities and vulnerabilities." He added, "We have the right mix of public security, trade, investment and diplomatic officials here to discuss the challenges and solutions. UNODC - and the UN - will continue to assist the region, and what is agreed here will be supported at a practical level through our border management and other development programmes."

Solutions to secure borders - land, maritime, ports, and airports - will be the focus of a coming roadmap for ASEAN border management to be announced by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNODC in 2019. The document will outline actions necessary at the policy, investment, and operational levels to align regional security and economic agendas.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on Transnational Organised Crime.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on Border management.

Click here to learn more about the UNODC Regional Programme for Southeast Asia.