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Jan032013

Bilateral meeting sets stage for efforts to curb wildlife smuggling at Thailand-Lao PDR border

Thai enforcement officers met their counterparts from Lao PDR as part of a programme to curb cross-border wildlife trafficking © TRAFFIC Nakhon Panom, Thailand, 3rd January 2013—Officials of two key provinces along the Thailand-Lao PDR border have met for bilateral enforcement discussions in an effort to stem the flow of illegally traded wildlife between the two countries.

The provinces of Nakhon Panom in Thailand, and Khammouane in Lao PDR, are situated along one of South-East Asia’s myriad bustling wildlife trade and smuggling routes for Tigers, pangolins and rare orchids, among others.

The bilateral meeting held on the 20th and 21st December brought together the two provincial governments and law enforcement agencies to discuss the current state of wildlife trafficking, its impact on the two countries and the region as a whole, as well as activities that have been put in place to address the challenge.

Facilitated by TRAFFIC and funded by WWF-Germany, the meeting highlighted the important roles of law enforcement agencies in preventing trafficking through common borders and guarding protected areas nearby.

Crucially, it was meant to establish a working link, on the ground co-operation, and information sharing between local enforcement officers focusing on problems specific to this border area and received the support of the Thailand-Wildlife Enforcement Network through the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), as well as the ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network Program Coordination Unit.

The meeting was opened and chaired by the Vice Governor of Nakhon Panom province, Somchai Vitdamrong, who remarked on the timeliness of the meeting and how it has raised awareness of the co-operation between the two provinces in implementing national and local strategies to protect local wildlife and natural resources.

Delegates from both sides stressed the need to strengthen relationships between the two through closer co-ordination, regular local meetings, and sharing of relevant information on wildlife law enforcement. They also wanted to see greater efforts to create a better understanding of the importance of conservation to local communities; and the creation of more alternative livelihood opportunities for villagers.

December’s meeting was the result of recommendations from the 1st Bilateral Meeting on Wildlife Law Enforcement Cooperation between Lao PDR and Thailand held in Udon Thani, Thailand, in September 2011.

“Bilateral meetings like these, though small in nature, could have the greatest impact on stemming the endless flow of endangered wild plants and animals across borders because they are focused and local,” said TRAFFIC’s Regional Director in South-East Asia, Dr William Schaedla.

“They bring topical problems to the fore and help shape enforcement and intelligence links focused on specific trafficking conduits. That this happens with the backing of ASEAN-WEN governments and agencies will make the difference in the long term,” he added.

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