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PATROL training helps combat border crimes in Cambodia and Viet Nam

Bangkok (Thailand), 22 September 2011
- Rapidly improving infrastructure, streamlined border procedures and greater connectivity have helped create bigger regional markets and booming economies in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. The rapidly increasing flow of people and goods across borders, however, has created huge cross-border trafficking opportunities for transnational organized criminals in drugs, wildlife, timber, ozone-depleting substances and hazardous waste.

To fight transnational border crimes in this region, PATROL (Partnership Against Transnational-crime through Regional Organized Law Enforcement) recently held face-to-face training courses for Cambodian and Vietnamese officers working at key border checkpoints.

Held 24-26 August in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and 14-16 September in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, the PATROL training sessions revealed challenges shared by both countries, as well as more specific areas of concern.

In Sihanoukville, Cambodian government and law enforcement officials urged the PATROL team to help them counter the tide of Cambodians illegally migrating to Thai farms and factories for work. They noted that these migrants were regularly exploited by their employers and forced to consume methamphetamines, often resulting in drug addiction.

"Training on border cooperation and transnational organized crime is not just desired by the border law enforcement community in Cambodia, it is actually highly demanded," stressed Pol. Col. Huort Sophally, Director of Planning and Training at the National Authority for Combating Drugs. "This is why we encourage continued collaboration between UNODC, the PATROL partners and the Government of Cambodia."

In Viet Nam, the PATROL team trained 37 officers from agencies operating in 5 Border Liaison Offices, including Border Army, Customs Administration, Environmental Police, Anti-Narcotics Police, immigration and the Forest Protection Department on new cross-border trafficking and smuggling threats. Importantly for the Vietnamese officials, PATROL provided them with a forum to cooperate more effectively across agencies and borders with their counterparts in Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR.

"'This PATROL training seminar supports the efforts of the Government of Viet Nam to strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries to ensure peace, development and stability," said Pol. Sen. Col Nguyen Kien, Director of Standing Office on Drugs and Crime in Viet Nam.

To help border officials better deal with these complex challenges, the PATROL team brought participants up to date on the new trafficking and smuggling trends and methods used in transnational crimes, primarily migrant smuggling and the trade of illicit commodities. They provided instruction in how to respond to these crimes and underlined the effectiveness of Border Liaison Offices (BLOs) and cross-border cooperation. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded the Cambodia programme with a session on ethics, integrity and human rights that emphasized that effective enforcement meant respecting universal principles and international law standards.

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, sea ports and airports in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (Thailand, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia, China and Viet Nam).

PATROL objectives include: establishing border liaison offices (BLOs) in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam and training BLO staff, port control and airport specialist response units to fight cross-border crimes related to illegal migration, particularly the trafficking in human beings, wildlife, drugs and materials dangerous to the environment.