Bangkok (Thailand), 3 March 2021 - A command centre was opened today in the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NED) of the Royal Thai Police with the support of UNODC and the European Union Delegation to Thailand. The ‘Iyara Circle’, also known as the Centre for the Investigation of Transnational Environmental Crimes or CITEC, will lead specialized operations and criminal investigations related to wildlife and timber trafficking and other environmental crimes in Thailand, and assist with cross-border and regional cooperation.
CITEC is the first facility of the NED to bring dedicated wildlife crime analysts and investigators together to coordinate operations to address transnational crime networks, with facilities to communicate directly with frontline officers via secure video conferencing. International counterparts will also be hosted in the Centre during joint investigations.
“The Iyara Circle CITEC facility will support operations and help us cooperate with our neighbours, as well as ASEAN and international partners. The set-up is impressive, and the technology will be used for advanced analysis and surveillance during wildlife crime investigations” said Pol. Lt. Gen. Surapon Yoonuch, Assistant Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police. Since 2017 the Royal Thai Police have led coordination of the working group on illicit trafficking of wildlife and timber under the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC), but until CITEC there has not been a dedicated base to support related operations.
CITEC was proposed and established by UNODC as part of the law enforcement and demand management of wildlife in Asia project financed by the European Union. Ambassador Pirkka Tapiola of the European Union commented, “we are proud to partner with Thailand and UNODC on a range of activities that support the preservation of the country’s unique natural biodiversity while preventing criminal activities affecting the environment. We are confident that the Centre will help the Royal Thai Police to investigate wildlife trafficking and other forms of environmental crime in Thailand and the ASEAN region.”
While 2020 saw a reduction in large seizures of illegal wildlife products in Southeast Asia, the trade has not stopped, and it is expected that trafficking will resume to pre-COVID levels once border and related travel restrictions are relaxed. “The world has started coming to terms with the fact wildlife trafficking is a vehicle for the spread of zoonotic diseases and pandemics”, remarked Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “The Royal Thai Police have stepped-up to address organized crime networks behind wildlife and timber trafficking – crimes that that have a direct and profound impact on the health of the region and planet.” He added, “As lead shepherd for related ASEAN SOMTC negotiations Thailand is also providing crucial regional leadership. The next round of discussions in early April will be chaired from Iyara Circle CITEC facilities when we expect operations are going to be agreed.”
The opening of CITEC further professionalizes the NED’s investigative approach to wildlife crimes and demonstrates the commitment of Thailand and the Royal Thai Police to lead regional efforts.
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