Poachers can face 14 years' jail when new law passed

Poachers can face 14 years' jail when new law passed

Poaching cases will be met with harsher penalties by year-end as the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) plans to pass amendments to a wildlife protection law this year, officials said on Friday.

Sompong Thongseekem, a senior forestry official at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), said the new penalties will be among a series of changes to the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, BE 2535 (1992), one of several environmental laws awaiting NLA approval.

One of the penalties to be revised concerns the hunting and killing of protected wildlife. The current law provides a maximum jail term of seven years and/or a fine of up to 100,000 baht. Mr Sompong said the amended law will double this.

The DNP suggested the revision last year and the amended draft has already been vetted and forwarded to the NLA.

"We hope that these harsher penalties will discourage poachers or traffickers from committing such crimes, the way ivory distribution decreased exponentially after comparable amendments were made in 2015, enforcing hefty fines," Mr Sompong said at a seminar held at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Law.

He also discussed the first law concerning ivory taken from elephants, which was introduced in April 2015.

This allowed for hefty fines of up to 6 million baht against smugglers and others involved in the illegal ivory trade, up from just 40,000 baht before.

Mr Sompong said this has helped curbed the ivory trade, deterring smugglers who view Thailand as a transit hub and gateway to lucrative markets like China.

Chatchom Akapin, deputy director-general at the Office of the Attorney-General's International Affairs Department, said yesterday that poaching and crimes against animals remain an "urgent issue" and harsher penalties are needed.

"We are facing pressure from both domestic and international bodies to strengthen our grip on crimes against animals," he said.

"In a legal sense, stronger penalties for these crimes would decrease the likelihood of the criminals being given parole."

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