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Building officer capacities essential to preventing trafficking at borders

Ton Pheung, Bokeo Province (Lao PDR), 22 April 2016
- Specialized training for frontline officers to detect and interdict cross-border trafficking is an important element of combating migrant smuggling and human trafficking-crimes that generate nearly $3 billion in illicit profits in Southeast Asia annually. With some 550,000 people from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar smuggled into Thailand alone each year, projections for cross-border movement of goods and people are expected to rise with increasing integration of the ASEAN economic community.

In response to these threats a  4-day training course on cross-border anti-smuggling techniques was recently held for officers from the three BLO offices stationed along the Mekong River bordering Myanmar and Thailand. 30 frontline officers received theoretical classroom instruction on migrant smuggling, human trafficking, hands-on practical exercises, and participated in a border crime simulation to reinforce new skills to detect and interdict transnational crimes.

"Lao officers stationed at Border Liaison Offices (BLO) along the Mekong River play a particularly important role in the heart of the Golden Triangle, where migrant smuggling, illicit chemical trafficking, and wildlife trafficking are ever increasing", says Robert Burkes, retired investigator for the US Federal Bureau of Investigations and UNODC trainer. "Ton Pheung District's remote location and porous borders are among the most challenging for counter trafficking efforts and also has among the greatest officer capacity building needs in the Greater Mekong Subregion." 

Through UNODC's Border Management programme and its partnership with the Government of Lao PDR, anti-smuggling training along the borders of Myanmar and Thailand has strengthened networks that generate and share information between border law enforcement agencies. "This is  critical to combating transnational crime" said Police Lt. Col. Bounpheng Inthavong and Programme Advisory Committee (LPAC) representative during his opening remarks.

UNODC estimates criminal proceeds of trafficking in Southeast Asia and the Pacific at nearly $100 billion annually. Most illicit commodities cross land borders, including those destined for transport by sea or air. Detecting, interdicting and communicating trafficking incidents will make significant contributions to disrupting transnational organized crime in the era of ASEAN integration. 

Officers from Immigration, Customs, Police and specialized human trafficking and narcotics units who received training were given access to UNODC's  standardized anti-smuggling training manuals and field guides.  Skills gained by the officers include the ability to detect fraudulent documents, conduct surveillances and interviews, collect and catalog evidence, and to report on incidents of transnational crimes within and across borders. The delivery of practical specialized equipment and expert techniques combined with access to the entire suite of UNODC eLearning cloud-based training modules enabled frontline officers to continue their professional development long after field training ends.

Click here to read more on UNODC's Regional Border Management Programme

UNODC Regional Border Management Programme and the anti-smuggling training provided by the programme are supported through generous investments by the Government Australia and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.