Thailand asked to combat 'rise' in elephant smuggling

Report released by campaign group says wild elephants caught in neighboring Myanmar, and sent to Thailand to supply tourist industry.

Thailand asked to combat 'rise' in elephant smuggling

World Bulletin / News Desk

Traffic, an NGO which monitors wildlife trading, has called on Thailand to do more to combat what it says is a resurgence in the smuggling of wild elephants to the country.

A report released by the campaign group said that wild elephants were being caught in neighboring Myanmar and sent to Thailand to supply the tourist industry.

In Thailand, the elephants face a life of captivity. They are put on display, or frequently provide rides to tourists hungry for photo opportunities.

Thailand cracked down on the illegal trade of elephants in 2012, when the then government led an initiative to scrutinize the origins of elephants in the tourism industry, but the latest accusations will prove unwelcome to a military junta trying to clamp down on illegal activities, while improving the nation's image overseas.

The U.S. has announced sanctions against the country following the May 26 coup, while the European Union has said it will “suspend all official visits to and from Thailand… until a democratically elected government is in place.”

“Thailand’s action have caused the illegal trade in live elephants from Myanmar to halt, but unless urgent changes are made to outdated legislation and better systems are introduced… things could quickly revert to their previous unacceptable state,” said Dr. Chris Shepherd, Traffic’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia.

Thai officials are also reeling from a report last week that stated that the trade in illegal ivory has trebled in the kingdom.

Myanmar's Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry Aye Myint Maung told the Anadolu Agency on Monday that more regional cooperation was needed to combat the scourge of trafficking.

“The area [where elephants are smuggled] is inaccessible to us because they are in a conflict region. It allows [the smugglers] to operate freely,” he said by phone from Myanmar capital Naypyidaw.

Many elephants in Myanmar live in northern Kachin state, from where rebels have been battling the government on and off for decades.

Thai officials could not be reached for comment on the issue.

Last Mod: 07 Temmuz 2014, 11:20
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