China's ivory 'smuggling' tourists face prison over Thai souvenirs

China's ivory 'smuggling' tourists face prison over Thai souvenirs

Thai authorities have warned Chinese tourists they could face smuggling charges and run the risk of jail time if they purchase ivory products in Thailand and try to take them home.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dapong Ratanasuwan said he had written to the Tourism and Sports Ministry asking it to help inform Chinese-speaking guides about ivory laws.

“Buying these products is illegal. If Chinese tourists try to take them out of the country, they will face legal action,” Gen Dapong said.

Chinese tourists make up the largest group of visitors to Thailand, followed by Malaysians, Japanese and Russians, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Gen Dapong said many Chinese tourists visiting Thailand sought out carved ivory souvenirs.

The Environment Ministry has spent three million baht on a campaign telling foreign tourists, especially the Chinese, not to buy ivory products. The campaign is running at all international airports, he said.

The drive is part of a national plan to stop the ivory trade. The plan was submitted to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) for consideration last month.

Cites warned last year that Thailand’s efforts to suppress the trade were ineffective, especially on law enforcement. Cites threatened to curb the flora and fauna market in Thailand, unless the country brought illegal ivory sales under control.

Late last year Cites’ secretary-general John Scanlon visited Thailand and met state authorities in charge of suppressing the trade in African ivory.

According to Gen Dapong, Mr Scanlon was satisfied with Thailand’s recent work to tackle the issue.

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