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Significant investments needed to address chronic weaknesses at ill-equipped border checkpoints

Bangkok (Thailand), 23 January 2014
- A newly released UNODC study suggests that land-border checkpoints in the Greater Mekong Sub-region are largely ill-equipped to effectively tackle the threats posed by globalizing criminal networks. Without significant investments to address chronic weaknesses at the border, UNODC warns, regional globalization may remain strongly associated with an increase of transnational organized crime.

"This study is based on direct interviews with 369 border officers in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam," said Mr. Giovanni Broussard, Programme Officer, UNODC Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "It offers a unique opportunity to learn what 'frontline' officers see as the main threats to border security. The report maps trafficking routes and identifies recurrent gaps that need to be addressed to effectively fight and contain cross-border crimes."

The UNODC study, Border Control in the Greater Mekong Sub-region - Baseline, challenges and opportunities to build effective law enforcement response to organized crime along land borders , is an effort to expose the main threats posed by organized crime and propose corrective measures to suppress related crimes, Mr. Broussard said.

Southeast Asia is experiencing an unprecedented level of integration, especially in terms of trade and connectivity. Eager for greater trade and economic integration, the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are building or renovating roads, bridges, railways, ports and airports at a dizzying pace.

While this will boost economic growth and lower trade costs, a relatively weak border control framework across the Greater Mekong Sub-region provides increased opportunities for organized criminal groups to traffic illicit goods and smuggle across borders.

To effectively combat such illegal activities, governments and border enforcement agencies need to improve their capacity to efficiently filter cross-border movements. Effective border control is therefore one key element in tackling transnational organized crime.

In its newly launched Regional Programme for Southeast Asia and The Pacific, UNODC proposes short- and medium-term interventions to improve border control in the region. These interventions would directly address issues highlighted by the UNODC report.

UNODC strengthens border management in the region by enhancing cross-border cooperation through multi-agency mechanisms; improving the collection, analysis and dissemination of information; and using training programmes to enhance border staff knowledge and skills.

They include the improvement of anti-smuggling skills of border officers, the technological scale-up of checkpoints, the enhancement of cooperation practices for law enforcement agencies across borders, the use and generation of criminal intelligence and the reduction of corrupt practices.

These interventions build on the successful Partnership Against Transnational Crime Through Regional Organized Law Enforcement (PATROL) , a joint initiative of the UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), FREELAND Foundation and TRAFFIC that has supported the Governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam since 2010 to improve security at land borders.

On Wednesday 29 January 2014, UNODC and the Embassy of Australia in Bangkok will jointly organize a round-table with key partners to discuss the findings of the report and work towards integrated solutions to improve security at land borders.

To find out more about transnational organized crime, click here.