The Lao Wildlife Enforcement Network (Lao-Wen) is meeting in Vientiane province from September 21-23 to discuss a new strategy and rules to facilitate stakeholders’ participation in combating wildlife crime.
Approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in September 2010, Lao-Wen is an interagency coordination body created to stamp out wildlife crime through the enforcement of laws.
Lao-Wen is headed by the ministry’s Department of Forest Inspection, and supported by the ministry’s Department of Forestry and Department of Forest Resource Management.
It is also backed by the Department of Environment Police under the Ministry of Public Security, Department of Lao Interpol Police, the Ministry of Finance’s Department of Customs, the military, public prosecution sector, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce’s Department of Importation and Exportation, Management and Scientific Authorities of the CITES Office, provincial forest inspection offices, and other bodies.
Speaking at the meeting yesterday, Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection, Mr Khamphout Phandanouvong, said “This meeting will deliver a new strategy and action plan that defines the role and obligations of the various departments and sectors in the coordination process to effectively combat the illegal trade in wildlife and plants.”
In an interview with Vientiane Times yesterday, the department’s Deputy Director General, Mr Phonsavanh Sophakhamphanh, said Lao- Wen was founded along with the networks in other ASEAN countries following the foundation of the enforcement network in the region (ASEAN- Wen) in 2012.
But, he said, none of them had developed a strategy and Lao-Wen was now attempting to right this deficiency to make the network a model within ASEAN.
Mr Phonsavanh admitted to shortcomings in combating wildlife crime in the past, pointing to the lack of close coordination among the various sectors involved, and the lack of guidelines defining the roles and obligations of those sectors. “We have to define what the Customs Department, Department of Environment Police, and the Department of Lao Interpol Police, for example, should do in this regard,” he said. Even though the Law on Wildlife prohibits trade in forest and aquatic animals, they have been found on display for sale such as rock deer, with their bodies and parts found regularly in a village in Vangvieng district, Vientiane province, and on menus in many restaurants around the country.
Forest officials said the document that is being developed to stipulate standard operational principles would better facilitate the prevention of hunting and trade in wildlife.
According to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Decision No. 239 dated June 6, 2016, authorises Lao-Wen to directly coordinate with ministries, institutions and various units at national and international levels under the ASEAN-Wen.
This enables the task force unit together with the investigation team to take action in investigating transnational wildlife crimes in Laos.
Source: Vientiane Times