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Press Notice Laos to Host ASEAN Anti-Wildlife Crime Task Forces, Vientiane
date_range21 May, 2008

Members of the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network will gather in Vientiane next week for a meeting that will map out the next phase of their ongoing battle to suppress rampant wildlife crime in Southeast Asia, which is quickly robbing the region of its rich biodiversity and natural resources. From May 26-27, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic will host the 3rd Meeting of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), since its inception in 2005. Police, Customs and Environmental Officers from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam will join their hosts to review the progress of ASEAN-WEN implementation at national and regional levels. The United States, New Zealand, Interpol and the CITES Secretariat will also send delegates to the Vientiane gathering. It is now widely recognized that wildlife crime has become one of the world’s most lucrative forms of organized crime, with syndicates operating from East to West. The two-day meeting will provide a forum for discussion of future strategy, under the Strategic Action Plan of ASEAN-WEN. Key issues to be addressed will include: Improving Investigations of Organized Wildlife Criminals Building Capacity of Wildlife Crime Task Forces Developing Wildlife Crime Databases Producing an ASEAN-WEN Training Library The role of the new ASEAN-WEN Program Coordination Unit and the network’s draft sustainability plan will also be discussed. The meeting is being facilitated by the Lao PDR Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Department of Forestry, with logistical and financial support from the ASEAN-WEN Program Coordination Unit (PCU) and the ASEAN-WEN Support Program, which is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). ASEAN-WEN has already achieved several important milestones in its fight against wildlife crime, including the establishment of dedicated national Wildlife Crime Task Forces by a majority of member countries and a Program Coordination Unit, based in Bangkok, Thailand. The network’s trainings and exchanges are improving capacity of law enforcement officers to fight wildlife crime throughout the region, resulting in increased vigilance, cross border and inter-agency cooperation, seizures and arrests. “Although the Network is relatively new, we have already seen the improvement in wildlife crime enforcement in the region during the past couple of years. What ASEAN-WEN members need to do at this meeting is to first figure out how to sustain the Network and second to fine tune its enforcement capacity to be able to go after the major dealers in the region,” said Klairoong Poonpon Senior Liaison Officer of the ASEAN-WEN Program Coordination Unit. Southeast Asian countries are major target, transit and end points of this trade. If left unchecked, the illegal trade could devastate the region’s biodiversity and natural resources. Intelligence sharing and coordinated cross-border enforcement action has proven to be highly effective in catching and deterring the international criminal networks involved. ASEAN-WEN aims to support and enhance cohesive national and international action against wildlife crime. Editors Note 1. ASEAN-WEN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network. It involves the law enforcement agencies of all ten ASEAN countries and facilitates cross-border collaboration in the fight against illegal wildlife trade in the region. The network was first suggested at the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in October 2004, further developed by senior ASEAN environmental officials in October 2005, and launched by ASEAN member countries on December 1, 2005 at an official meeting in Bangkok. 2. ASEAN-WEN is the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network, comprising enforcement officers from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The United States and China are also cooperating with ASEAN-WEN. 3. Under ASEAN-WEN, police, customs and environmental management agencies are forming national task forces and cross-border intelligence sharing links to successfully curtail the wildlife trade. The ASEAN-WEN Program Coordination Unit (PCU) has just been established inside the Thai Government. For more information, see the ASEAN-WEN web site (www.asean-wen.org) or write to the ASEAN-WEN Program Coordination Unit at pcu@asean-wen.org“>pcu@asean-wen.org

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