To strengthen the legal approach to wildlife crime in the Golden Triangle Region, the Wildlife Justice Commission, in collaboration with WWF, provided a training to local prosecutors and forestry officials in Lao PDR to improve their knowledge base and introduce them to a set of techniques that would allow for more efficient prosecution of wildlife crime.
The training, held from 9 to 12 May 2022, is part of the “Fighting Wildlife Trafficking in the Golden Triangle” project, with the goal of improving skills and raising awareness on the presence, role, and scale of wildlife crime in Thailand, Myanmar and Lao PDR.
12 prosecutors and 10 forestry officials participated in the training, during which one of the participating prosecutors remarked: “If other investigators could organise case information as was presented [in the Wildlife Justice Commission’s examples], then I’m sure there would be better prosecutions.”
Mr. Khamphone Mounlamay, Director of the Agriculture and Forestry Office of Oudomxay Province, gave the opening remarks at the event. The training included a study session on international cooperation, consisting of investigating and prosecuting a transnational wildlife crime case provided by a Thai prosecutor. There was also a session on using species victim impact statements to help prosecutors better understand the wider environmental and social implications of wildlife crime and in turn, to build stronger cases against wildlife traffickers.
Mr. Khamphouy Thepvongsa, Deputy Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection (DoFI), Lao PDR, who presided over the event, commented on the importance of the training: “It is difficult to find tech-savvy people in Lao PDR to trace phones to find offenders. More and more people are using smartphones, so this is an important skill to have. Our team sees wildlife trading online every day. We try to trace the information, but we need a project to train DoFI on how to trace offenders, especially on Facebook. The public sends us tips on online wildlife crime, but we need support and training on how to do online investigations.”
The first training of this program took place in January in Chiang Rai, Thailand. With each session, the Wildlife Justice Commission aims to equip local prosecutors and law enforcement officials with the best practices for disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal networks. Beginning in September 2020 in collaboration with WWF, the “Fighting Wildlife Trafficking in the Golden Triangle” project is expected to continue until December 2022. It is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).