Bangkok, April 28 2023 - When the Bangkok launch of the UNODC Legislative Guide on Combating Waste Trafficking attracted an outpouring of interest from environmental and trade regulators, from Customs, and law enforcement officers, the Office of the Attorney General of Thailand identified a promising opportunity to strengthen their collaboration on combating waste-related crimes.
To explain how they work on environmental crime cases, the Office of the Attorney General invited the Southeast Asian-based Unwaste project and its Thai partners for a study visit with the Department of Investigation. The environmental and trade regulators, along with Customs and the law enforcement officers, were introduced to the Office’s investigation mandate and drawn into a lengthy discussion on the legislative possibilities for prosecuting waste crime.
“We need to review the punishment level for violating each governmental agency’s law,” Kulthanit Mongkolsawat, Director-General Prosecutor of the Department of Investigation within the Office of the Attorney General, suggested to the regulators and officers. “If the offence is punishable by maximum imprisonment of at least four years or more, then the offence will be considered a serious crime that qualifies for the implementation of the Anti-Participation in Transnational Organized Crime Act 6,” he explained. He also emphasized the need for “strong cooperation between the front-line officers and the Office of the Attorney General for effective investigation process.”
“With the national Anti-Participation in Transnational Organized Crime Act B.E. 2556, public prosecutors are equipped with investigative power, which allows them to establish a national taskforce consisting of various governmental agencies to combat transnational organized crime,” added Surasak Treerattrakul, the former Director-General Prosecutor of the Department of Investigation, while illustrating a success story of cross-border collaboration on transnational organized crime cases.
A Customs Department officer highlighted a repatriation case study from Laem Chabang port authorities involving a waste shipment from Australia that had been declared as waste paper–mixed paper (HS code 4707.90.00). Upon its inspection, however, it was found to contain plastic waste, used food packaging and used masks, among other unacceptable elements. The shipment was identified by the Pollution Control Department as municipal waste (HS code 3825.10.00) that is prohibited for importing into as well as transiting through Thailand, per the Ministry of Commerce’s Notification and Customs Act B.E. 2560. The meeting provided a platform for interagency exchange on how legislation can be used to trace evidence to possible organized crime groups’ involvement in the illicit waste trade in the region.
The Unwaste project aims to better understand legal and illegal waste flows between Southeast Asia and the European Union, with an additional focus on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on medical and hazardous waste movements. The project also promotes national dialogue and facilitates European and ASEAN Member State partnerships to strengthen policies, legislation and law enforcement cooperation in combating waste trafficking. UNODC is cooperating with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on this project, and UNEP is conducting consultations with national stakeholders in four countries to map the laws and regulations and make comparative analysis of the administrative and criminal responses to the illegal waste trade.
The Unwaste project is implemented by the UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in cooperation with UNEP, and benefits from the financial support of the European Union.