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Thailand fails to be delisted from ivory ’shame file’. Nation still ranked as ’third worst offender’.

mercredi 31 mars 2010

Thailand fails to be delisted from ivory ’shame file’. Nation still ranked as ’third worst offender’.

Bangkok Post March 30, 2010

Thailand has failed to convince the international body on wildlife trade to delist the country from the illegal ivory trade watchlist.

Thai wildlife officials proposed the delisting during the triennial general assembly of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in Doha, Qatar, which ended last Thursday. Thailand is ranked the third worst offender on Cites’s list of nations where the ivory trade has been most rampant since 2006, after Congo and Nigeria.

Adisorn Noochdamrong, of Thailand’s Cites office, said Thai authorities had successfully confiscated large amounts of smuggled ivory, but this had not helped improve the country’s status on the watchlist because the listing was based on how many ivory confiscations there are, not the seized amount.

Mr Adisorn, a member of the negotiating team, said his team had proposed a revision of the ranking system, but failed to get support as the adjustment could affect other countries negatively.

Failure to remove Thailand from the watchlist, however, would not hamper authorities’ attempts to crack down on the illegal ivory trade.

"To prove that we are serious about cracking down on the illegal ivory trade in order to be delisted from the watchlist, we will focus more on legal enforcement and confiscation of the illegal items," he said. "This means wildlife officials need the closer cooperation of related agencies, especially the Department of Customs."

Mr Adisorn said customs officials tended to be lenient with the charges pressed against ivory smugglers, such as tax evasion. Under such a charge, wrongdoers would only have to pay a fine of four times the ivory’s price.

He urged customs officials to allow wildlife officials to take part in the cases so that in-depth investigations could be carried out to track down illegal ivory trade rings. Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti has said being on the watchlist had gravely damaged Thailand’s reputation. The minister has pledged to free the country of the illegal trade. Thailand is known as one of the largest hubs for crafting ivory with Japan and China as its major markets.

Last month, customs officials seized 239 pieces of elephant tusk weighing two tonnes, valued at 120 million baht, at Suvarnabhumi airport. It was the country’s largest seizure of ivory in terms of weight and value. Thai wildlife and customs officials have been told to keep a close watch on the smuggling of ivory into the country after Cites rejected Tanzania and Zambia’s proposal to export over 100 tonnes of ivory from their government stockpiles.

Authorities are worried this ivory will be traded on the black market instead.

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