Thai Success a Failure?

Thailand’s Wildlife Crime Task Force arrested a Malagasy national attempting to smuggle 218 critically endangered Radiated and Ploughshare tortoises from Madagascar into Bangkok last night.  This arrest comes just 12 days after the arrest of a Pakistani man smuggling an astonishing 1,140 endangered star tortoises into Thailand in his luggage, and is the sixth arrest of a wildlife smuggler in seven weeks, according to the Thailand-based NGO Freeland.  This work may appear commendable, but there is a big problem.

Catching couriers may get press releases but it does not stop wildlife trafficking.  What stops trafficking is investigation. 

It is the most basic principle of policework that smugglers should be allowed to deliver their contraband to determine the next person up the chain in a criminal organization.  The technique is called a “controlled delivery” and it is standard operating procedure if you want to catch a Kingpin.  Southeast Asia’s wildlife enforcement network ASEAN-WEN is no longer an infant.  It and Thai authorities have discussed for years the need to use controlled deliveries.   Yet these recent seizures indicate controlled deliveries are not being done.  Thailand is not the only country where seizures are taking precedence over criminal investigations.

When major couriers are stopped and their contraband seized opportunities to make a real difference are lost.  Thailand has sophisticated knowledge and ability, but it is not using them.

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3 Responses to “Thai Success a Failure?”

  1. PirateCat Says:

    It is the same with all illegal trade, whether it is drugs, arms, wildlife or even human trafficking; catching the runner, the person holding the goods, does not catch the ‘kingpins’ at the top.

    Only by using controlled deliveries will the people at the top, those providing the cash for the transport and benefiting by the trade, be stopped, and then, the trade will stop too.

    Until then, the kingpins can sit back, send out more runners to replace those who get caught and reap the benefits.

    Really interesting blog post, thank you!


  2. PirateCat Says:

    Until authorities start to accept that controlled deliveries are an effective way to catch those at the top, they will continue to conduct raids on illegal activities.

    These raids are very newsworthy, even more so as the pictures of animals in tiny, dirty cages show the public that their authorities are doing something to fight the trade in wildlife.

    This was an interesting read, and a view point that is not always expressed openly, thanks very much.


  3. Azrina Abdullah Says:

    We need to look at the bigger picture here regarding controlled deliveries. Southeast Asia, as with any other region in the world, has a problem recognising prosecutions as a real success and instead use seizures as a measure of their success. Although hundreds of enforcement officers have been trained under WEN, including on controlled delivery, these same officers (not all but many) are often the ones transferred to another unit within their respective departments and new officers have to be trained. There is no continuity and can be very frustrating for the trainers too. This is a vicious cycle, which is not easily solved as its in the hands of the governments, who do not place wildlife crime high on its agenda. Investigations are tied to available resources, and governments here are just not ready to commit adequate resources for this. And this is not a problem just for ASEAN but also globally. Until the political will of the powers that be treats wildlife trafficking as serious matter, then controlled deliveries will be a mere theory. Co-incidentally, Interpol and CITES published a manual on controlled deliveries in 2008 , entitled ‘Controlled Deliveries – A Technique for Investigating Wildlife Crimes’. I wonder how many enforcement officers have cracked open that free manual???