Thai gov’t de­stroys ivory stock­pile amid crack­down by junta

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Thai­land de­stroyed more than two tonnes of ivory Wed­nes­day — a vic­tory for an­i­mal rights groups fight­ing against the trade in a coun­try renowned for be­ing a hub for illegal tusks.

The cer­e­mony, in which 2,155 kilo­grams of raw tusks and carved trin­kets were fed into an in­dus­trial rock crusher be­fore be­ing in­cin­er­ated, was presided over by the Thai junta leader Prayuth Chanocha and is the first time the king­dom has taken steps to de­stroy part of its stock­pile.

“This is to show the Thai gov­ern­ment’s strong de­ter­mi­na­tion to op­pose ivory traf­fick­ing and that Thai­land will com­ply with in­ter­na­tional rules,” he said dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

An­i­mal rights cam­paign­ers have long ac­cused suc­ces­sive Thai civil­ian and mil­i­tary ad­min­is­tra­tions of turn­ing a blind eye to the lu­cra­tive trade.

They have pushed for Bangkok to de­stroy its stock­pile to sig­nal its de­ter­mi­na­tion to stamp down on the trade and avoid the risk of seized ivory find­ing its way back onto the black mar­ket through cor­rupt of­fi­cials.

Trade in ivory was banned in 1989 un­der the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But that has not stopped crim­i­nal gangs seek­ing to ex­ploit a con­tin­ued de­mand for tusks in Asia.

Ivory and other body parts of ele­phants are prized for dec­o­ra­tion, as talismans, and for use in tra­di­tional medicine across parts of Asia with Thai­land a key transit point.

The coun­try’s gen­er­als, who seized power in a coup last spring, have vowed to crack down on the illegal ivory trade.

Ear­lier this year, they or­dered all Thais to register any ivory they owned, warn­ing that those who failed to do so would see their items con­fis­cated.

They have also made a se­ries of high pro­file seizures in­clud­ing four tonnes of ivory found hid­den in con­tain­ers in April that orig­i­nated in the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo and was des­tined for Laos.

Thai po­lice seized more than three tonnes of ivory a week later in a sec­ond haul, this time from Kenya that was again des­tined for Laos.

The ivory de­stroyed on Wed­nes­day ac­counts for most of Thai­land’s stock­pile where crim­i­nal cases have been com­pleted.

A fur­ther 540 kilo­grams has been do­nated to mu­se­ums, gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tion and univer­si­ties to be used for ed­u­ca­tional and aware­ness rais­ing pur­poses.

Jan­pai Ongsiri­wit­taya, from the World Wildlife Fund, said Thai­land’s junta had taken sig­nif­i­cant steps to tackle the illegal trade and that the de­struc­tion of the stock­pile was “more than just a sym­bolic act.”

“For too long Thai­land has been ex­ploited by wildlife crim­i­nals as both a gate­way and mar­ket­place for ivory poached in Africa and Asia,” she added.

The cer­e­mony came as state media in Viet­nam re­ported two sig­nif­i­cant seizures of ele­phant tusks in the last few days, in­clud­ing two tonnes from Nige­ria and another yet to be weighed haul that came via Malaysia.

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