Washington has asked Thailand to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade, citing the illicit business as a major moneymaker for armed guerrilla groups.
The matter was raised by US ambassador to Thailand Kristie A Kenney during a meeting with Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk yesterday.
Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, deputy chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said ambassador Kenney asked for closer cooperation between Thailand and the US in tackling wildlife crime and smuggling. The major concern of the US authorities was the illegal ivory trade from Africa in which many Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, were the destinations, Mr Theerapat said.
US authorities say revenue from the illegal African ivory trade goes to some guerrilla groups, which use the dirty money to buy weapons to arm their causes.
"We [told] the ambassador that Thailand has put the utmost effort into curbing the illegal wildlife trade," he said. "Many state agencies are working on the matter."
Under Thai law, the ivory trade is illegal except that which is certified by the Provincial Administration Department. Certified ivory must be from elephants in captivity.
Souvenir shops that sell ivory products must also be registered with the Ministry of Commerce.
The international community has also taken on the issue of the illegal ivory trade. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) secretariat recently warned its member countries they could face trade sanctions if they fail to stamp out ivory trafficking.
"I don't think Thailand is at risk of being boycotted since we have strong measures against the illegal ivory trade," Mr Theerapat said.
Cites officials last week inspected ivory shops in Nakhon Sawan's Phayuha Khiri district and were satisfied with how the authorities regulated the ivory business there.
Phayuha Khiri is the country's biggest centre for the ivory trade. There are about 150 ivory shops in town and 20 of them have joined the department's pilot project which monitors the ivory trade.
The issue of the illegal trade of African tusks will top the agenda of the 16th Conference of the Parties to Cites hosted by Thailand from March 3-15, 2013.
Thailand, as the host country, will nominate March 3 as World Wildlife Day. That date matches the day in 1973 on which the convention's text was agreed. Thailand will also propose delisting Thai freshwater crocodiles from Appendix I to Appendix II.
The crocodile population has increased to 700,000 thanks to breeding programmes at crocodile farms.
The delisting will boost the crocodile leather business, and could help the industry break into foreign leather markets, Mr Theerapat said.
About the author
- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin