ASEAN officials review cross-border co-operation in combating wildlife crime
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28th January 2008 - The Government of Malaysia is underlining its commitment to fighting the organized poaching and trafficking of wild animals that threatens South-east Asia’s biodiversity by this week holding an ASEAN-wide workshop on Task Force Development and Working Groups Development.
The workshop will pursue co-operation between member countries under the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), an intergovernmental initiative bringing together ASEAN governments and law enforcement agencies in the region to combat the illegal trade in wild flora and fauna. Wildlife crime has become a multi-billion dollar business worldwide, and South-east Asia has become a major target, transit and end point for global wildlife crime syndicates.
The meeting, hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN), builds on a workshop held in the Philippines in 2007, where a Strategic Action Plan 2007-2015 for ASEAN-WEN and its member countries was drafted.
In his speech, NRE’s Parliamentary Secretary, Dato’ Sazmi Miah, stated that 2007 had been a historic year for NRE and its relevance due to the fact that one important piece of legislation, The International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2007, had been passed by Parliament. He added, “the Act reflects the Government’s serious effort in safeguarding our precious natural resources, and NRE is very supportive in strengthening the relevant regulations to curb the illegal trade of wildlife”.
Mr. Winston Bowman, Regional Mission Director for USAID based in Bangkok, re-affirmed the US Government’s commitment to combating illegal wildlife trade. He said the USA would “continue to assist ASEAN-WEN in tackling illegal wildlife trafficking”.
ASEAN Secretariat’s representative, Mr. Htain Lin, was encouraged by the significant progress over the past two years made by ASEAN-WEN, which “gives ASEAN a platform for effective co-ordination, information-sharing and enforcement process across all agencies in their fight against the illicit harvesting and trafficking of wildlife”. The establishment of the ASEAN-WEN Program Co-ordination Unit, which acts as the network’s secretariat and is based in Bangkok, for example, has begun to address some of these issues, to ensure that the sharing of intelligence and information among the region’s countries is maintained. This was confirmed by Ms. Klairoong Poonpom, who is an officer with the Unit.
“ASEAN-WEN task forces have made significant progress since their creation last year, and it’s important to build on the momentum they have generated,” said Ms Azrina Abdullah, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director. A number of recommendations under the ASEAN-WEN Strategic Action Plan 2007-2012, are now being implemented across the region. These include special interagency cross-border enforcement meetings, training courses for enforcement agencies on species identification, investigations and border check point controls. Special training has also been developed for the judiciary.
Workshop delegates included representatives from ASEAN-WEN member countries; the ASEAN Program Coordinating Unit (PCU) in Bangkok; the ASEAN-WEN Support Program; plus key Malaysian Government agencies involved with combating wildlife crime, such as the Royal Malaysian Police, PERHILITAN, Royal Malaysian Customs and the Department of Fisheries. Observers from INTERPOL, Australia Customs and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also attended.
High-level officials from USAID’s Regional Environment Office in Bangkok, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) and the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta also participated in the opening ceremony.