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UNODC and Thailand review cross-border cooperation efforts in response to transnational organized crime

Chiang Mai (Thailand), 26 March 2021
- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has concluded a two-day comprehensive consultation meeting with the Government of Thailand and officers serving in Border Liaison Offices (BLO) at land border crossings across Thailand. The National Meeting on the Implementation of Border Liaison Offices in Thailand was convened by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) Safe Mekong Coordination Center (SMCC) to determine a path forward for the expansion and strengthening of BLOs in Thailand. Discussions were guided by the Thai Government’s policies addressing transnational organize crime, including its 20-Year National Strategy (2018-2037) and the Safe Mekong Operational Plan. Representatives from the National Security Council (NSC), ONCB, the Department of Border Affairs under the Royal Thai Armed Forces, BLOs, and UNODC discussed practical measures necessary to operationalize cross-border cooperation with Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar, including information and intelligence sharing in response to illicit activity.

Transnational organized crime is an increasingly serious threat to the security and stability of Southeast Asia, in particular to the Mekong region. Rapid economic development has improved living standards and economic growth, but significant and growing disparities between countries have also proven to be beneficial for organized criminal groups.

“The revenues of transnational organized crime groups in the region continue to expand,” remarked Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “The uneven pace of development in the Mekong has led to significant differences in capacity, differences which are very pronounced at and along the borders of Thailand. These differences and disparities are very effectively used by traffickers to do business.”

Improving border management and cross-border information sharing are critical to efforts to address transnational organized crime, and UNODC works with several countries of Southeast Asia supporting a network of BLOs. In Thailand BLOs have officers from multiple agencies and offices — including the Royal Thai Police, the Department of Provincial Administration of the Ministry of Interior, Customs, the Royal Thai Army and in some locations the Royal Thai Navy — sharing information and intelligence related to illicit trafficking. Together, these BLOs are part of a regional network which enables coordination between officers stationed a border. Douglas added, “BLOs are fundamentally a mechanism for coordination at border crossings that allow for efficient front-line cooperation rather than working bureaucratically through capital cities and distant chains of command – they are a location with basic infrastructure, but more importantly they are about facilitation and results.”

“The most important issue for BLOs in Thailand is maintaining close communication between the agencies involved, and with the mirroring agencies across borders,” commented Mr. Chotipun Jullapech, Director of the SMCC. “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with new challenges, but officers in Thailand have found ways to work together to ensure cooperation has not been disrupted.”

The regional BLO network has grown to consist of over 100 locations in five countries, including 28 in Thailand. During the workshop in Chiang Mai, UNODC, ONCB and the NSC discussed means of improving multilateral approaches to border management in the region by further expanding and reinforcing the BLO network. This comes as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Regional Border Management Roadmap — an initiative promoted by Thailand through ASEAN frameworks, supported by UNODC — enters the final stages of approval. The roadmap endorses nine key actions member-states should take collectively to improve border management in response to illicit trafficking, including the expansion of the BLO network. UNODC will support governments in the region as they turn their attention to shared security concerns. The Border Management Programme will continue to promote multilateral approaches to border management by working with governments and border communities.

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