Law enforcement officers from Lao PDR and Thailand are now better equipped to stop wildlife trafficking after undergoing joint training at a major endangered species smuggling corridor.

Twenty-six law enforcement investigators including customs, police, wildlife officers and prosecutors attended the training, which provided the participants from Lao PDR’s Department of Forestry Inspection with their first advanced investigations course.  The U.S.-supported training developed the capacity of the officers to investigate organized criminal groups engaged in natural resource and wildlife crime.  

Conducted in the Thai border town of Nong Khai, the course focused on investigation techniques to detect ongoing wildlife trafficking between Thailand and Lao PDR, a major route common for wild animals and wildlife products being smuggled to destinations in China and Vietnam from other parts of Asia and as far away as Africa.

Organized criminal syndicates behind the illicit wildlife trade are taking advantage of porous borders, weak laws and understaffed law enforcement in the area to profit from the exploitation of rare and protected wildlife.  The training was also designed to improve enforcement collaboration between the two countries, which are both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network.

The investigator training was co-funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the Blue Moon Fund, and  conducted by Freeland, a Bangkok-based, counter-trafficking organization that trains governments to combat wildlife trafficking.  Freeland implemented the training as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking Program, the U.S. Government’s largest counter wildlife trafficking activity that works in to protect the rich wildlife and biodiversity of Southeast Asia.

The course was sponsored by and conducted jointly with the U.S. Government as part of its efforts to help reduce wildlife crime around the world by increasing the effectiveness of law enforcement in detecting, investigating, apprehending and prosecuting leaders and organizers of syndicates trafficking in protected wildlife.

By Richard Nyberg

Source: USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia

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