Counter-IWT Projects - Best Practices

Best Practices in Thailand

Thailand is home to more than 10% of the world’s animals and encompasses a wide variety of ecological zones, which makes it one of the most environmentally diverse countries in ASEAN. The country is a biodiversity hotspot: Protected areas cover 20% of the land area and Thailand has 26 Marine National Parks, but like in many countries, wildlife is under threat. These threats include poaching, deforestation, pollution, destructive fishing practices, and disturbances that are caused by major infrastructure development. In November 2019, Thailand passed a new Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act B.E. 2562 (2019) (WARPA), which included a new category for non-native CITES-listed species and increased the penalties for wildlife crime in most cases and the jail terms – to up to 20 years. The law used findings from the report Scaling Efforts to Counter-Wildlife Trafficking Through Legislative Reform, which comprises a comprehensive legislative and policy analysis developed by USAID Wildlife Asia to revise the 27-year old Wildlife Act. Maximum fines have increased by 25 times for the trafficking of CITES-listed species, and maximum imprisonment terms equally increased – from four to 10 years (USAID Wildlife Asia, 2019). Thailand banned the sale of African elephant ivory and regulated the domestic ivory market through the passed Elephant Ivory Act. Any commercial trade in African Elephant ivory has been punishable by law since 2015.

Combatting Illegal Wildlife Trade, Focusing on Ivory, Rhino Horn, Tiger and Pangolins in Thailand

Project Information: In order to address the challenges of IWT, the country is currently implementing the project Combatting Illegal Wildlife Trade, Focusing on Ivory, Rhino Horn, Tiger and Pangolins in Thailand, which is a 5-year project (2018-2023) that is funded under the GEF-6 funding cycle with a Total Project Cost of USD 32 million. It is one of the projects under the Global Wildlife Program administered by the World Bank. Although the project is implemented at the national level, there are demonstration sites in Pengjan Village, Nongkhai Province; and at the Sadao Border Checkpoint, Songkhla Province, both being part of the trafficking route for pangolins. The Implementing Agency is UNDP, and the Executing Agency is the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), with support from the Royal Thai Police, the Thai Customs Department, and other law enforcement agencies from the Thailand-WEN Committee. The project has three main responsible parties for implementation: TRAFFIC, for the demand reduction component and IWT monitoring; IUCN, for knowledge exchange management, and TRACE, for the capacity building on wildlife forensics. The Wildlife Conservation Society, which was already involved in capacity building of the DNP during the GEF-5 funded project Strengthening Capacity and Incentives for Wildlife Conservation in the Western Forest Complex Project, provides training on investigations and digital programs, and offers advice on the development of potential training modules for the Thailand-WEN. The country is considered predominantly a transit and destination country for IWT, with wildlife originating most often from outside of Thailand, such as from African countries. Species most frequently traded are tigers, pangolins, elephants, and rhinos.

Thailand-WEN: One of Thailand’s success stories that is further developed under the project is the Thailand WEN. The Thailand WEN was created in 2004 by the DNP, the Thai Customs Department and the Royal National Police, even before the ASEAN-WEN was created in 2005, to fill a perceived gap in law enforcement that rendered collaboration between different agencies difficult. After the ASEAN-WEN was created, some of its funding was allocated to the Thailand-WEN and it was an opportunity for the Thai government to accelerate this process of establishing effective wildlife law enforcement and to encourage other countries to form their own WENs in order to build a close-knit network. Once the ASEAN-WEN merged into the ASEAN Working Group on CITES and Wildlife Enforcement (AWG-CITES & WE), the continued development and funding slowed down, which is why it was decided to include strengthening the Thailand-WEN under this GEF-6 project. This is why, in 2019, Thailand conducted the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) Indicator Framework Assessment, which identified gaps in wildlife law enforcement and in the Thailand WEN to be addressed. 

One of the identified limitations pointed to the restricted membership of the Thailand-WEN National Committee, which is chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE). In 2020, several agencies were added to the existing Committee, such as the Anti-Money Laundering Office, the Attorney General, the Court of Justice, the Thailand Post Company, and the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand. This increased the number of representatives from 17 to 28: the Chair (MONRE), 10 representatives from MONRE, and 17 representatives from other agencies. The obligations and authorities for the Thailand-WEN include the establishment and support of policies and guidelines, such as guidelines on inter-agency cooperation, the support of activities of the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC), and the deliberation of approvals for action plans and yearly budget plans for the Thailand-WEN, among others. One of the next steps to be implemented will be the establishment of three Sub-Committees on 1) Enforcement, 2) Technical matters, and 3) Public Relations, and to set up respective Working Groups under each Sub-Committee to handle the operations. In addition, the project explores setting up additional Working Groups outside of Thailand-WEN, e.g. focusing on species, such as a Pangolin Working Group, as well as for other urgent technical matters. The National Committee is scheduled to meet twice a year. 

Once the strengthening of the Thailand-WEN will have been completed at the national level, the project plans to establish Provincial WENs – in the two demonstration sites first, with a potential for up-scaling. The DNP, as well as several other Departments, have offices on the sub-national level that will form the basis for this endeavor: The DNP has 21 Regional Offices in Thailand, as well as Provincial Offices for each of its 77 Provinces. With the establishment of the Provincial WEN, it is planned for the representatives of each Department part of the National Committee to work together on the Provincial level. Activities to this effect already take place in two of Thailand’s Provinces today, as there are several bilateral agreements in place with the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Malaysia to collaborate on IWT matters. Originally formalized at the national level, these agreements were translated into transboundary collaboration at the Provincial level for some Provinces located at the Thai-Lao PDR border. An example is the cooperation between the Mukdahan Province (Thailand) and the Savannakhet Province (Lao PDR), and between Nakhon Phanom Province (Thailand) and Khammouane Province (Lao PDR), where law enforcement groups from both countries work closely together. Another enabling factor for the planned Provincial WENs is the existing presence of a platform at the Provincial level, in that the Governors, who are the heads of the Provinces, call for monthly meetings to discuss natural resources in more general terms. This platform for exchange could then be used to highlight counter-wildlife crime activities during these meetings, and to discuss matters of the newly established Provincial WENs. In order to ensure sustainable financing for the Thailand-WEN beyond the project, it is planned to ask the Thai government or ASEAN again to open a budget line for the Thailand-WEN, or to procure other funding from other sources, which may include the ASEAN WEN, now AWG CITES and WE. At the end of the GEF-6 project, the success of all activities will be evaluated by conducting another ICCWC Indicator Framework Assessment.