Hot! Thailand Wildlife Traffickers Still Untouchable

Thai and foreign law enforcement officers have been facing a problem in the illegal animal trade with some officials working hand-in-hand with traffickers ensuring that shipments through Suvarnabhumi International Airport are sent through before they even reach customs inspection.

Bloomberg Businessweek reported that even though a 10-fold increase in wildlife law enforcement actions, including seizures, have been reported in the last few years, high-level wildlife traffickers seem to continually slip past the law.

“It is very difficult for me. I have to sit among people who are both good and some who are corrupt, says Chanvut Vajrabukka, a retired police general. “If I say, ‘You have to go out and arrest that target,’ some in the room may well warn them.”

 Recently, Lt. Col. Adtaphon Sudsai was instructed to lay off what had seemed an open-and-shut case he cracked four years ago when he penetrated a gang smuggling pangolin along the Mekong River.

He was lead to Daoreung Chaimas, allegedly on of Southeast Asia’s biggest tiger dealers. Despite two arrests and having her own assistants testify against her, she continued to remain free.

When the officer went to arrest her the second time, his transfer to another post was announced.

In another case, a former Thai police officer who tried to expose traders at Chatuchak Market was told by a senior police general to “chill it or get removed.”

The most recent animal trade bust was when a large amount of rhino horns and elephant tusks were confiscated. Laos has continued to harbor Vixay Keosavang, who has been linked to a rhino smuggling ring. The former soldier and provincial official is reported to have close ties to senior government officials in Laos and Vietnam.

According to agents, Chinese buyers, informed of incoming shipments, fly to Bangkok, staying at hotels pinpointed by the agents around the Chatuchak Market, where endangered species are openly sold. There they seal deals with known middlemen and freight operators.

The sources say that when they report such investigations seizures are either made for “public relations,” sink into a “black hole” or the information is leaked to the wrongdoers.

According to Thailand criminal defense lawyers, offenses relating to trade in Thailand can be punishable with three years in jail or a fine of six thousand baht. This is even more serious if the seller lies about where the original product came from.

Interview with Edwin Wiek on Illegal Ivory Trade:

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