Vientiane (Lao PDR), 8 April 2016 - Efforts to counter increasingly sophisticated criminal networks at borders are being undermined by overlapping policies and legal loopholes, senior officials said at a dialogue between Lao PDR and Viet Nam. The two day workshop focussed on strategies to improve responses to the trafficking of natural resources across land borders.
Both Lao PDR and Viet Nam are countries of origin, transit and destination for illegal trades in timber and endangered wildlife species. Trafficking of natural resources across borders in these countries continues to be an area that requires urgent action, despite the efforts of both national governments to produce a good regulatory framework and to promote cooperation.
To address these concerns, 24 representatives from law enforcement, trade, CITES authorities, environment, anti-corruption and criminal justice agencies -including 9 participants from Viet Nam and 15 from Lao PDR- came together to discuss the challenges in the existing system of control of natural resources between the two countries, and to identify solutions to improve international cooperation on trade and regulations. Anti-corruption measures were also discussed during the workshop.
'This particular meeting is the first policy dialogue meeting between Laos and Vietnam on the issue of natural resources trafficking across borders", said Pol. Lt. Col. Inpong Chanthavongsa, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Public Security in Lao PDR. "The smuggling of natural resources is not the problem of a single nation but a transnational crime requiring collaboration among countries across the border".
"This meeting is an important part of the overall strategy to promote and develop integrated responses that cut across different sectors such as trade, environment and rule of law" said Giovanni Broussard from UNODC's Global Programme for Combatting Wildlife and Forest Crime. "The next step is to narrow down some of the solutions identified by participants and to present concrete ideas to both Governments."
Participants, including representatives from the CITES Management Authority, also highlighted awareness-raising as a pertinent challenge. The belief held by people that consuming rhino horn can kill cancer was brought up as an example to highlight the pressing need to engage and educate people.
The event was supported by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau of the US State Department.
To learn more about UNODC's work on wildlife and forest crime, click here.