Govt hopes to avoid sanctions after ivory crackdown? (Thailand)


By Petchanet Pratrungkrai, The Nation

Date Published
After making a serious attempt to suppress the illegal trade of ivory, the Commerce Ministry is confident of avoiding international sanctions.
Last month, the government submitted a report to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) about the progress it has made on this issue in cooperation with the private sector.
Chainarong Chochai, deputy director-general of the Business Development Department, said Thailand needed to wait for CITES to consider whether to impose sanctions. However, the organisation is expected to acknowledge the strenuous attempts to regulate ivory trading and suppress illegal activities.
If Thailand does face sanctions, however, many products related to wildlife and forestry could be banned from international trading, such as leather, other animal by-products, and orchids.
In the report submitted to CITES, the government said it was stringently enforcing laws restricting ivory trading. It also has increased the penalties for illegal trading to three years in jail and/or Bt6 million in fines. Government agencies have also set up a database to register legal traders and owners of ivory.
To improve public awareness of this issue, the government has advised tourists not to bring ivory into their country, and that they can only buy it from licensed traders; otherwise, they could also be punished under the law.
So far, about 50 traders have been licensed to deal in ivory.
Thailand has been fingered as one of eight countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and some countries in Africa, where illegal trading in ivory and rhino horn is a problem.
According to a Commerce Ministry report in 2013, Thailand’s trade in products under CITES control was worth Bt3.31 billion, down by 0.67 per cent from 2012.
The top three export products were orchids, reptile leather (including snakeskin and crocodile leather), and leather prepared after tanning or fitting.
Import of products under CITES control was worth Bt450 million in 2013, an increase by 55.53 per cent the prior year. Major import products were reptile leather, caviar, and various live plants, cuttings and spores.