Bangkok (Thailand), 30 March 2018 - Representatives of the 10 Southeast Asian nations met in Bangkok this week to mark the establishment of a new coordinated network of law enforcement agencies to address the most serious forms of wildlife and timber trafficking in the region.
It was the first meeting of the Working Group on Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife and Timber, which was formed under the framework of the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC). The two-day meeting was convened by the Royal Thai Police in cooperation with UNODC, on 29-30 March in Bangkok, Thailand, with the aim of setting the priorities and work programme activities for the group over the next three-year period.
The working group is the result of a series of developments that recognize the increasing seriousness of wildlife and timber crimes affecting the region. This crime type was endorsed as a new area of transnational crime under the purview of the SOMTC since October 2015, and the establishment of a dedicated working group was endorsed in September 2017. Thailand has been leading the region in these developments as the Voluntary Lead Shepherd, via the Royal Thai Police.
"Wildlife and timber trafficking issues are being given increasing priority worldwide, and it's important that we have a regional platform to exchange knowledge, information and modus operandi among law enforcement to address these issues," said Pol. Gen. Sakda Chuenpakdee, Assistant Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police. "Thailand is looking forward to working with our ASEAN counterparts and to play a leading role in this new group."
ASEAN delegates at the meeting included high-level representatives from police and security institutions, as well as some wildlife enforcement authorities and foreign affairs officials. The meeting was also attended by the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of China Customs, which is mandated to investigate cases of wildlife trafficking into China. As one of the world's biggest destinations for illicit wildlife and timber products, China has a crucial role to play in building a stronger law enforcement response, and partnership with this new working group is critical to target criminal syndicates.
During her opening remarks, Ms. Jenni Lundmark, Development Attaché of the European Delegation to Thailand, stated that the European Union is also a source, transit and destination for illegal wildlife and timber products and that several efforts are underway to promote effective regional responses.
"The European Union congratulates ASEAN Member States for taking the bold move to recognize wildlife and timber trafficking as serious transnational crime," she said. "We share the same view, and also share a strong commitment to law enforcement issues."
The newly established working group will complement the work being conducted by the ASEAN Working Group on CITES and Wildlife Enforcement, whose vice chairman also attended the meeting in Bangkok.
"It is important to find a continuum between the work of those agencies dealing with CITES matters and those dealing with combating organized crime. Elevating these crimes on the ASEAN political and security agenda is crucial, and we believe that this working group has great potential to target the most serious forms of wildlife and timber trafficking," said Mr. Giovanni Broussard, Regional Coordinator of UNODC's Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime. "The success of this endeavor ultimately will depend on the capacity of ASEAN Member States to maintain momentum and to remain committed to operational results. Certainly, UNODC and other development partners stand ready to support the efforts of this new network."
Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on wildlife and forest crime in the region.