Sixty selected forest rangers from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand began an intensive 14-day enforcement training course yesterday to combat crime in transboundary protected areas.
The PROTECT Border Course (Protected Area Operational and Tactical Enforcement Conservation Training) is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), designed by Freeland and supported by Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and the U.S. Department of State. Technical support was also provided by the U.S. National Park Service. The course will train government officers tasked with enforcing the laws in the forests along international borders within Lower Mekong countries. The course has expanded its link to other existing agreements such as the Partnership Against Transnational-crime through Regional Organized Law-enforcement (PATROL) by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI).
“We hope this course would be the start of new era of trans-border collaboration on nature conservation”, expressed Dr. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, Deputy Director General of the DNP.
Wildlife and forests in the region are threatened by poaching, wildlife trafficking and illegal logging. Organized criminal groups are making billions of dollars in illicit profits, exploiting inadequate protection of the natural resources they target in national parks and sanctuaries. From the past year, of the 195 interdicted wildlife crime cases documented in ASEAN countries, over 30% occurred in border areas.
Mr. Steve R. Galster, Director of Freeland said, “Organized crime groups are networking across this region’s borders and trying to weaken them so they can easily traffic wildlife and drugs; this course helps set up a new response: Rangers, Police, UN, and NGOs joining arms to net the crooks and root out corruption.”
PROTECT-Border is one capacity building component of the USAID funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) Program, and provides technical support to the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network.