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Regional network to combat wildlife and timber trafficking becoming operational


Bangkok (Thailand), 26 October 2018
- A regional network of law enforcement officers working on wildlife and timber trafficking issues has gathered in Bangkok (Thailand) to discuss recent and ongoing investigations.

The meeting was held on 25-26 October 2018 and organised by the Royal Thai Police in cooperation with UNODC, linked to the framework of the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC).

It brought together operational-level law enforcement officers to develop joint investigations, with the aim of progressing wildlife and timber trafficking cases from having a solely domestic focus, to a broader regional or international focus. Representatives of several international organisations and NGOs also shared information and intelligence that can feed into law enforcement investigations.

"ASEAN countries need to strengthen their coordination to combat wildlife and timber trafficking, and international organisations, NGOs and the private sector are important partners to help us to do this," said Pol. Gen. Sakda Chuenpakdee, Assistant Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police. "Thailand remains committed to tackling these issues and working with other Member States to produce meaningful results."

After years of negotiations among ASEAN Members States, the proposal of targeting "wildlife and timber trafficking" as a new regional threat was approved in October 2015 by SOMTC, which is effectively the pivotal body to discuss policies against threats of transnational organized crime in ASEAN. This decision still required an endorsement by all ASEAN Ministers responsible for security matters, which arrived only in late 2017. Thailand was chosen as the "lead shepherd" of this process and - building on the momentum of the ministerial endorsement - the Royal Thai Police and UNODC convened the first meeting of the Working Group on Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife and Timber in March 2018. With a view to add an operational dimension to this process, "contact points" were appointed and this meeting was the first of its kind.

Over the course of the two-day meeting, participants discussed options for joint multi-country operations targeting particular species, such as pangolins and elephants, as well as proposals for an information sharing mechanism for the working group. It is expected that these discussions will now generate action as the officers return to their countries and carry out their investigations.

"It is crucial that this working group has the ability to take an operational focus and advance the discussion from a policy level to law enforcement action on the ground," said Mr. Giovanni Broussard, Regional Coordinator of UNODC's Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime. "The meeting showed some important positive signs of the willingness of countries to move in this direction, and we hope the momentum will be further heightened when Thailand assumes the ASEAN chairmanship in 2019."

The need for greater collaboration to fight wildlife and timber trafficking was also emphasised by Mr. Jerome Pons, Head of the Operations Section of the European Union Delegation to Thailand.

"Strong regional integration is the fundamental basis of the European Union, and we support it elsewhere in the world, particularly in the Southeast Asian region," he said during his opening remarks. "We are all in this together - no single country, agency or organisation can deal with these issues alone."

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on wildlife and forest crime in the region.

Click here to learn more about the Asia Wildlife Enforcement and Demand Management Project, funded by the European Union.