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Using theory and practice to fight cross-border crimes

Ho Chi Minh City (Viet Nam), 15 November 2012
- It would be as easy as usual, he thought. After packing some ivory carvings, a rhino horn and 300 grams of heroin in a suitcase, Sok drove a few kilometres to the border with Viet Nam, went through the checkpoint, and into the nearby small town across the border.

His contact, Dung, met him at the restaurant. Everything around seemed as usual: people shopping, others cooking, a man at the motorbike shop. All looked quiet as Sok, Dung and the driver went to the parking lot to swap suitcases - contraband for cash - and pick up two local workers - illegally procured permits and visas in hand - to smuggle back across the border.

Suddenly, it all went wrong.

At a sign from the undercover officer at the motorbike shop as Sok passed the suitcase to Dung, an arrest team swooped in and arrested them all. Afterwards, the evidence was presented to a prosecutor to start an investigation against an international criminal network involved in the smuggling of migrants, drugs and wildlife.

Not real but deadly serious, this elaborate sting was a part of simulation of criminal activities exercise organized as part of two PATROL project's Anti-Smuggling Training seminars held in Viet Nam from 29 October- 9 November.

By combining theory with the practical simulation of criminal activities, investigation and evidence-collecting, the PATROL Anti-Smuggling Training seminars aimed to improve the effectiveness of investigations against cross-border crimes in Southeast Asia..

"During this PATROL course trainees receive simple advice related to many practical aspects of their work as border officers," said Mr. Songsatit Kittikhunwatchana, project coordinator of the PATROL project. "This ranges from how to detect false travel documents or wildlife species to how to improve effectiveness of search and surveillance work. The trainees appreciate this approach very much and say it helps them in their work."

These PATROL training activities were supported by the Australian Department for Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the CITES Secretariat and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). To deliver these courses, UNODC brought together a wide range of national and international experts. The instructors on law enforcement techniques are experts from the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Department of Environment and Conservation, the Canadian Ministry of Environment and the Freeland Foundation.

Through the support of UNEP, at the end of the PATROL course a refrigerant identifier was donated to one of the Border Liaison Offices in Viet Nam. This device will allow border officials to identify quickly the presence of any ozone-depleting substance in suspicious shipments.

Established in 2010, PATROL is a joint initiative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), FREELAND Foundation and TRAFFIC in partnership with the governments of the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

PATROL seeks to improve border security at land borders in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam).

For more information on PATROL Project, please click here.