Foreign NGO tracked smuggler down, but why the unnamed politician who helped the smuggler remains unnamed, remains a mystery.
Photo above of a baby leopard recovered from the animal trafficker at Suvarnabhumi airport.
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EDITORIAL: Failure to curb smuggling (7/06/2011)
The "escape" of an accused animal trafficker does not only set back the attempt to combat cross-border crime, it also is a huge black eye for the country's reputation for corruption. It is nothing short of scandalous that authorities were unable to hold Noor Mahmood. The 36-year-old was arrested on May 13 at Suvarnabhumi Airport as he was about to leave on a flight home to the United Arab Emirates. His suitcases allegedly were stuffed with sedated, rare animals - four leopard cubs, a Sun bear, a gibbon, a marmoset and others. Being arrested, named and shamed in the media and forced to give up his passport turned out to be trivial inconveniences, because in little more than two weeks, Mr Mahmood was gone.
To call this an embarrassing setback is a major understatement. The arrested man was charged, taken to court and released on bail. The animals, all alive, were put in the care of Thai veterinarians. Then, in a matter of days, he left Thailand.
Authorities said he had managed to obtain his passport again. There was no notice at border posts including the international airports to alert immigration officials. In fact, by all events, it seems the departure of Mr Mahmood was no escape at all, but a plot to move him on.
For those who followed the case even in its last days, the ease of the man's departure was not entirely surprising. The week after he was arrested at Suvarnabhumi, the Central Investigation Bureau took over the case. Pol Col Kittipong Khawsamang, a deputy CIB chief who handles environmental crimes, told the media that "a politician" had been meddling in the case. Specifically, said the police officer, this politician - so far unnamed in any public report - had demanded that the arresting officers at Racha Thewa police station return Mr Mahmood's passport. Racha Thewa was assigned the case because Suvarnabhumi falls under its jurisdiction .
The involvement of a politician in a cross-border criminal case involving both big money and the environment should have set off alarm bells. Mr Mahmood's arrest was no random event. The Emirates citizen had been followed for days by a foreign NGO, Freeland.
The group allegedly saw Mr Mahmood obtain the animals, and shadowed him to Suvarnabhumi, where officers were alerted to make the arrest. Freeland's days of tireless work succeeded in saving the animals, but the flight of Mr Mahmood raises major questions.
Top government officials have shown no interest in the case, despite the damage to the country's image and the obvious corruption involved somewhere in the arrest, prosecution and court case against Mr Mahmood.
According to statements by police and Freeland, Mr Mahmood had come to the attention of authorities before his activities last month in Bangkok.
They believe that the Emirates man was an influential cog in a top animal-smuggling operation. The demand for rare and exotic animals is high around the world. Collectors and self-described gourmets pay prices for smuggled animals that easily top those paid for drugs. Charges that a corrupt politician would be involved at the Thai end of an operation to ensure smooth criminal activities are not at all surprising
The cross-border trafficking of humans, drugs and rare animals is an offence against all civilised societies. Authorities may choose to try to sweep the Mahmood case under the rug, in the hope that everyone will forget the offence to the rule of law.
It would be better to track down the crooks who aided Mr Mahmood in his endeavours and escape.
(Source: Bangkok Post, EDITORIAL, Failure to curb smuggling, 7/06/2011, link)
Law, Trafficking and Corruption Vocabulary
fixer - 1. someone who intervenes with authorities for a person in trouble (usually using underhand or illegal methods for a fee), 2. "a person who arranges immunity for defendants by tampering with the justice system via bribery or extortion, especially as a business endeavor for profit" .(See Google Definitions and Wiktionary)
curb - to control or limit something that is harmful ระงับ, ควบคุม stop or reduce ลดหรือยุติ
smuggling - secretly and illegally taking goods or people into or out of a country ลักลอบขนสินค้าหรือคนเข้าและออกจากประเทศอย่างผิดกฎหมาย
traffic (verb) - the act of illegally buying and selling things (such as drugs, wildlife, stolen goods, etc)
trafficker - someone in the business of buying and selling things illegally or of illegally transporting people for work in other countries or areas (or in this case "endangered species") ผู้ลักลอบค้าสินค้าผิดกฎหมายหรือลักลอบขายแรงงานผิดกฎหมาย
animal trafficking - (See Wikipedia on wildlife trade and wildlife smuggling)
animal trafficker - a person who does animal trafficking
set back - causing a project to be even further away from achieving its goals
combat - try to solve a problem (like you are fighting a serious war) (fighting during a war การต่อสู้)
border - the official line separating two areas, regions or countries เขตแดน อาณาเขต
cross-border crime - crime that takes place in more than one country
combat cross-border crime - fight crimes that take place in more than one country
border post - a place on the border between two countries, where people and goods pass from one country to another country
black eye - black skin wround the eye after injury (for example after being hit) (here means: an embarassing and visible injury)
reputation - the opinion that people have about how good or how bad someone or something is ที่มีชื่อเสียง ที่เป็นที่รู้จัก ความนับหน้าถือตา ชื่อเสียง
corruption - (See Wikipedia on bribery, corporate corruption, and political corruption)
X nothing short of Y - X is Y (even though you would not normally think so)
scandalous - making people shocked and upset ซึ่งเสื่อมเสียชื่อเสียง, อื้อฉาว
authorities - government officials, the police or people in official organisations who have the legal power to make people obey laws or rules เจ้าหน้าที่ (ตำรวจ หรือผู้มีอำนาจ)
flight - run away from a place หนีออกไป
allegedly - claimed to have done something wrong, but not yet proven ที่กล่าวหา
sedated - given a drug to calm them down and make them sleep and be quiet
rare - not often seen or found หาได้ยาก uncommon, unusual ซึ่งหายาก
leopard - the smallest of the four big cats, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar, "the leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its range of distribution has decreased radically because of hunting and loss of habitat. It is now chiefly found in sub-Saharan Africa; there are also fragmented populations in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malaysia, and China" (See Wikipedia)
cub - a young wild animal such as a lion, bear or wolf
sun bear - "a bear found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia; Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Southern China, Peninsular Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo" (See Wikipedia)
gibbon - apes that live in "tropical and subtropical rainforests from northeast India to Indonesia and north to southern China, including the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Java" (See Wikipedia)
marmoset - 22 species of monkeys that live in the forests (See Wikipedia)
shamed - made to feel embarassed or "shame"
shame - the uncomfortable feeling you get when you do something wrong or embarassing (or when someone near you does something wrong)
media - radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group สื่อ
turned out to be Y - the final situation was Y (after a uncertain series of events)
trivial - unimportant and not serious ไม่สำคัญ, เล็กๆ น้อยๆ
convenient (adjective) - making life easier, easy to do สะดวก, อย่างคล่อง, อย่างไม่ติดขัด
convenience (noun) - something that makes life easier
inconvenience (noun) - something that makes life less easy
embarrassing - making you feel ashamed, nervous or stupid
setback - something that happens which delays or prevents a process from advancing การหยุดยั้งการก้าวหน้า,ความล้มเหลว,การถอยหลัง
understatement - a statement that makes something seem less important, serious, big, etc. than it really is ข้อความที่ไม่ครบตามความจริงทั้งหมด ที่ไม่เต็มเม็ดเต็มหน่วย
bail - money that is given to a court when someone is allowed to stay out of prison until their trial. If they do not return for the trial, the court keeps the money เงินประกัน; การประกันตัว (See Wikipedia)
charge - when the police officially accuse a person of breaking the law (starting a legal case, that will be decided on by a court, if person is found guilty then they are punished)
released - set free from jail, allowed to leave jail
released on bail - allowed to leave jail, after providing money as a guarantee that you will return (if you don't return, then you lose the money)
veterinarian - animal doctors (See Wikipedia)
in a matter of days - in just a few days (a short time) something happened
notice - information or warning หมายเตือ
alert - warn; to tell someone in authority like the police about a danger or problem so that they can deal with it เตือนให้ระวัง, การเตรียมพร้อม, แจ้งให้ทราบ, บอก
immigration - 1. the process in which people enter a country in order to stay there การย้ายถิ่นฐาน 2. people who work for the government agency that controls people coming into and going out of the country ("customs" controls goods going in and out)
departure - leaving ออกจาก
plot - a secret plan to do something bad แผนการลับ
ease - not being difficult (the ability to do something easily)
was not entirely surprising - people expected it
deputy - the person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation รอง, ตัวแทน,ผู้รักษาการแทน
meddling - getting involved in something that is "none of your business" (trying to influence and change something without being asked or invited)
jurisdiction - the power and authority within an area to enforce laws
environment - the natural world of land, sea, plants, and animals
alarm - to cause worry or fear that something unpleasant or dangerous might happen or is happening ทำให้กลัว
set off alarm bells -
random - happening, done or chosen by chance rather than according to a plan ซึ่งไม่มีแบบแผน
citizen - someone who has the right to live permanently in a particular country พลเมือง (See Wikipedia)
NGO - Non-Governmental Organisation, an organization working to provide some benefit to society (that is not part of the government and not a profit-making company, but rather part of what is called "civil society")
shadow - following a person to see where they go and what they do (police do this to criminal suspects to learn more about them)
image - an opinion that people have about someone or something ภาพลักษณ์ picture of something that people have in their mind, what people think about something ภาพลักษณ์
obvious - clear; easy to see, recognise and understand ชัดเจน
prosecution - 1. formally charging someone with a crime and putting them on trial, 2. organisation that tries to prove in court that someone has committed a crime อัยการ
influential - can control events because they are powerful ที่มีอิทธิพลต่อ
demand - the need and desire to buy goods and services by households and businesses
collector - a person who collects valuable things: old books, stamps, coins, art, etc (See Wikipedia)
gourmet - an expert in fine high quality food (See Wikipedia)
self-described gourmets - meaning: they call themselves a "gourmet" because of the rare wild animals they eat (but maybe they don't deserve this name)
smuggled - goods brought into a country secretly and illegally
ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
sweep under the rug - pretend that something bad never happened
offence - 1. something that makes you feel angry and upset because it is insulting, unfair, or morally wrong การทำให้ขุ่นเคืองใจ, 2. a crime or illegal activity for which there is a punishment (or should be punishment) การกระทำความผิด, การกระทำผิดกฎหมายหรือข้อบังคับ
civilised - having sensible laws and customs, not barbaric, an advanced society (example: no torture or extrajudicial killings)
rule of law - a state of order that conforms to the law; a legal system in which rules are clear, well-understood, and fairly enforced, including property rights and enforcement of contracts, people cannot avoid the law by getting help from powerful friends (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)
track - a mark or line of marks showing the direction that something has moved ร่องรอย
track down - find out where someone or something has gone (follow their "tracks")
crook - criminals, thieves
aided - helped ช่วยเหลือ
endeavours - things that people do (projects that they devote time and energy to)
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