Malaysia: Thai cop held over ivory smuggling

The Star 5 Feb 13;

ALOR SETAR: It would have been a foolproof way to smuggle elephant tusks the use of a police van.

Except that the suspect, a Thai policeman in plain clothes, did not count on his colleagues searching the vehicle where they found 20 elephant tusks in fertiliser bags and unregistered weapons.

The suspect, in his confession, claimed that he was hired to smuggle the elephant tusks from Malaysia.

Police Colonel Chalard Polnakarn said that the man was charged with violating Thailand's Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act (Warpa).

The arrest at the Baan Pala checkpoint in the Pratew district, more than 590km from the Padang Besar checkpoint, has triggered an investigation by the Kedah Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

Its director Rozidan Md Yasin said he was aware of the Feb 2 seizure by Thai police.

“The individual arrested claimed that he smuggled the elephant tusks from Malaysia.

“But to date, we cannot confirm that it was smuggled to Thailand through Bukit Kayu Hitam,” he said yesterday.

Perlis Perhilitan director Muhamad Bokhari Fardin said that they were also investigating.

The wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic South-East Asia regional director, Dr William Schaedla, said Malaysia and Thailand must work together to curb ivory smuggling through their respective borders.

Dr Schaedla said that in the past 18 months, Malaysian Customs officers seized some 12.5 tonnes of African elephant ivory and that the seizures were on the rise.

Most recently, over 2,300 pieces of ivory were seized in Port Klang.

“While Malaysian Customs does inventory on seized tusks, there is no clear protocol at the national level to manage ivory stockpiles.

“Such a system should be a high priority for Malaysia to ensure no seized ivory finds its way back into the black market.

“Thailand, a major consumer of ivory, allows the carving and sale of tusks from domestic elephants.

“However, current systems in Thailand are not able to show that the vast amount of ivory available in the country is from domestic and not African elephants, making laundering of ivory all too easy,” he said in a statement yesterday.