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Friday
Jul012016

Delay to new penal code in Viet Nam is major blow to fight against wildlife crime

© Joe Gratz / Creative Commons Hanoi, Viet Nam, 1st July 2016—In a serious set-back to Viet Nam’s efforts to crack down on wildlife crime, the authorities have postponed the enactment of a new penal code that was due to come into force today, which would have enhanced efforts to tackle rampant poaching and wildlife trafficking.

The new penal code represents a significant advance in relation to wildlife crime with stricter penalties for people found guilty of illegally killing wildlife as well as illicitly trafficking wildlife or wildlife products. In addition, the code no longer defines the seriousness of a crime solely by monetary value, but also by the weight or number of illegal wildlife products seized, making it far easier to prosecute offenders.

Critically, the regulations also protect rare and endangered species that are not indigenous to Viet Nam, which will enable the country – long regarded as a major transit hub in the global illegal wildlife trade chain as well as an important source and consumer country – to play a more significant role in international efforts to end wildlife crime.

“WWF and TRAFFIC regret the last minute postponement of the new penal code because wildlife criminals would have faced far stricter penalties,” said Dr. Van Ngoc Thinh, Country Director of WWF-Vietnam. “However, the delay allows for revisions to the code, which could further strengthen the anti-poaching and trafficking regulations.”

Inadequate enforcement of current laws has enabled wildlife crime to flourish. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) requires Viet Nam to demonstrate greater commitment to stamping out the illegal trade in rhino horn – as the country is the world’s largest consumer – and report back on its progress at the organisation’s next meeting in South Africa in September.

Meanwhile, the Wildlife Justice Commission has submitted a dossier to the Vietnamese government regarding an organised criminal network engaging in transnational trade in wildlife products from many endangered species, including rhino horn, ivory and tiger parts.

However, there is increasing high level political will in Viet Nam to tackle the serious threat posed by wildlife crime. Last year, Viet Nam endorsed the historic UN General Assembly Resolution against wildlife trafficking, and it will host an international conference on illegal wildlife trade in November.

Furthermore, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong, and US President Barack Obama jointly referred to illegal wildlife trade as a “security threat”, listing it alongside other critical concerns such as economic cooperation, human rights, and climate change.

“TRAFFIC welcomed the new penal code since it recognizes the seriousness of wildlife crime and hope it comes into force as soon as possible, but there were some areas of weakness that can hopefully now be addressed,” said Madelon Willemsen, Head of TRAFFIC’s Viet Nam Office.

“But combatting the illegal wildlife trade is not solely about crime and punishment, which is why TRAFFIC and WWF are working to instil a culture of corporate social responsibility and environmental protection throughout Vietnamese society. The new penal code, combined with generating a zero-tolerance to wildlife crime through behaviour change initiatives such as the Chi Campaign, could go a long way towards reducing Viet Nam’s role in national and international wildlife crime,” added Willemsen.

ENDS

For further information:

Nguyen Thi Phuong Ngan. Communications Officer. Tel 0986117600. Email: ngan.nguyenphuong@wwfgreatermekong.org

Richard Thomas, Global Communication Coordinator, TRAFFIC. Tel +44 7921309176 richard.thomas@traffic.org

About Chi campaign
In September 2014, TRAFFIC launched the “Strength of Will,” or “Chi,” campaign to reduce consumer demand for rhino horn in Viet Nam. Chi promotes the idea that success, respect and good fortune flow from an individual’s internal strength of character (or “chi) and not from a piece of horn. Since its launch, TRAFFIC has partnered with numerous government ministries, civil society organizations, individuals and state-owned and private enterprises to bring the Chi Campaign to over 2 million members of the campaign’s target audience through workshops, events and the media. Through capacity building workshops with these influential partners, the campaign’s initiatives encouraging businesses to adopt wildlife protection in their corporate social responsibility practices have reached over 4,000 businesses across Viet Nam.

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. panda.org/news for latest news and media resources

About TRAFFIC
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance of IUCN and WWF. www.traffic.org for latest news and media resources.

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