Category Archives: crime

Wildlife In Sights: Pressures On Iconic Tiger, Elephant Draws Media Attention To Challenges Facing Laos

Tiger & Elephant Populations Under Local, Regional, Global Pressure: Laos biodiversity in the international media spotlight.

With the release of a major UN report on biodiversity loss, the state of and threats to wildlife worldwide and in hotspots like Laos including iconic species like the tiger and elephant draw more international media attention, The Laotian Times reports.

The most comprehensive ever completed, the UN Report IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ 

The efforts of one award-winning wildlife defender to shed light on the plight of animals kept at illegal tiger farms posing as zoos in Laos was covered by the Washington Post.

Emaciated Tiger (Washington Post)

Emaciated Tiger (Washington Post)

“They all want hope and happy endings,” The Washington Post quotes Swiss conservationist Ammann as saying of many well-meaning yet naive folk at home and around the world.

“And I don’t see any happy endings. I can’t create fiction from what I see as fact,” 

Alleged Tiger Trader Nikhom Keovised (Washington Post)

Alleged Tiger Trader Nikhom Keovised (Washington Post)

Meanwhile, pachyderms were the focus of coverage by US-based National Public Radio (NPR) ‘A Million Elephants’ No More: Conservationists In Laos Rush To Save An Icon.

“The national government also has a reputation of being supportive of elephant conservation efforts across Laos. Within the last 30 years, catching wild elephants and trading wildlife have been banned. Laws severely restrict the logging industry in its use of elephants. Yet, despite these efforts, “if current trajectories continue there will be no elephants left in Laos by the year 2030,” NPR quoted an article co-written by Chrisantha Pinto, an American biologist at the center, as saying.

Challenges Facing Laos' Wildlife including Iconic Tigers and Elephants (NPR)

Challenges Facing Lao’ Wildlife including Iconic Tigers and Elephants (NPR)

The challenges facing the planet, its plants and animals are real.

What Would Buddha Do?

With a biodiversity hotspot like Laos under pressure from regional and global pressures brought by unsustainable human activity and law-breaking, it’s time to get serious about enforcing the rule of law to protect what natural beauty the country has left for the next generations of our and all species.

Christchurch Calamity: Laos’ PM Thongloun Offers Condolences to New Zealand, Condemns Terrorism

Prime Minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith on behalf of the government on Monday sent a message of deepest sympathy to New Zealand counterpart, PM Jacinda Adern following Christchurch terror attacks on March 15.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith on behalf of the government of Laos on Monday sent “a message of deepest sympathy” to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, over the mass shooting that took place in Christchurch on March 15.

Carried by Lao media outlets including state-run print media Vientiane Times and KPL Lao News Agency, the English version of the PM’s statement read:

“We are deeply shocked to learn about the mass shooting in the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch on March 15, which caused tremendous loss of life and left many people wounded.”

“On behalf of the Lao government and people, I would like to express our deepest condolences and sympathy to Your Excellency, and the government and people of New Zealand, particularly the families of the victims of this tragic incident.”

“The Lao PDR strongly condemns this act of terrorism and stands with the international community in the fight against international terrorism in order to maintain peace and stability in the region and the world.”

“I am confident that under Your Excellency’s leadership, the government and people of New Zealand will be able to overcome this tragedy and restore life to normal.”

Vientiane Bans Sale of Alcohol before 4pm

Vientiane Bans Sale Alcohol Before 4pm

(Lao Post)

In a drastic move to promote health and safety among members of Lao society, the Mayor of Vientiane has taken measures to ban the sale of alcohol or alcoholic beverages in the capital before 4pm.

According to a Decision issued 21 December 2018 by the Office of the Mayor of Vientiane Capital on Measures for Reduction of Accidents and Road Safety Promotion, retailers and other establishments who sell alcohol or alcoholic beverages will be subject to routine inspections and fines starting 1 July.

Similarly, civil servants or government employees in violation of these regulations, or who do not assist police officers in apprehending those responsible, will be subject to strict disciplinary measures.

Implementation of this Decision will be pivotal to its success, and the government hopes all citizens will take part in order to reduce the number of accidents in the nation’s capital caused by consumption of alcohol, and damage caused by drink driving.

 

 

Snakes on A Pier! Smuggled Serpents Intercepted En Route from Thailand to Laos in Their Thousands

Snakes Seized in Mukdahan, Thailand (The Nation)

Bound for a liquor-infused finale of serpentine-inspired, aphrodisian fantasies (fallacies?), the disruption of a criminal smuggling racket in Thailand’s Mukdahan Province has led to a lucky escape for more than 2,700 snakes all set to be smuggled cross-border bound for Laos and apparently some horny drinkers and all-too-hopeful Cassanovas beyond.  

The sizeable seizure of snakes worth about a million baht (US32,000 or 275 million Lao Kip) reportedly netted some 182 baskets containing 2,730 rat snakes and cobras headed to Laos from Thailand via a long tail boat.

The smuggling operation was intercepted as the illicit slithering cargo was about to be shipped across the river from Thailand into Laos.

Thailand’s The Nation reported that checkpoint head Sathit Pisaisawat led the snake seizure effort that included his own officers plus those of Surasakmontree Military Camp’s task force and the Navy’s Mukdahan’s Mekong Patrol Operation Command at 8.30pm on Sunday evening.

The seizure on Thailand’s side of the shared border occurred at Ban Bang Sai Noi pier in Mukdahan’s Wan Yai district.

The successful disruption reportedly followed a tip-off regarding the planned smuggling operation.

It was reported that from surveillance, some 3-4 persons were seen to be moving what appeared to be plastic baskets with closed lids from a pick-up truck onto the pier for transport by long-tail boat. The persons scattered upon the approach of authorities.

Some 15 live snakes were found inside a net sack in each basket.

These were seized as evidence as the search for those involved continues. Should they be caught, suspects should expect to be charged with having wildlife in their possession without permission and importing wildlife without permission under Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act 1992, it was reported.

In Laos, the snakes could be expected to be on-sold to Chinese intermediaries in order to make alcoholic beverages produced by infusing whole snakes in grain liquor.

The product is believed to be sold to those who believe it may cure what ails them (or their beloved).

Wildlife Crime

Wildlife Crime is not a Victimless Venture

Frivolity aside, cross-border wildlife smuggling is a serious crime in the region, as Laotian Times reported in February 2018.

Those with information of such incidences are encouraged to report any suspicious activities to authorities.

Organizations like IUCN, WWF and WCS and more are also engaged on the issues and welcome reports of suspected crimes.

Those on Facebook can engage with the issue via the Campaign to Abolish the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Laos.

Everytime you buy... Nature pays
Every time you buy... Nature pays

Every time you buy… Nature pays!

The Vientiane Village Chief Stamping Out Garbage Fires

Village Chief of Sangveuy Stamps out Garbage Fires

Each and every morning, the loudspeakers in Vientiane’s Sangveuy Village, of Sisattanak District, can be heard sending out a special message from the Village Chief, Mr Oudomxay Sisomphone.  His message is clear and concise: stop burning garbage, and stop littering. A breath of fresh air to some, and a stern warning to others.

Mr Oudomxay, who gave an interview to the Lao Post, says he decided to take real action against the problem of garbage fires in order to clean up the air in his local area, and encourage villagers to take care of their health.  And he says the law is on his side.

Regulations against the practice have been issued, including Instruction by the Mayor of Vientiane, No. 002/MV, and several notices issued by the Head of Sisattanak District, as well as the official village regulations. According to these regulations, the burning of household waste is prohibited across Vientiane Capital. But many villages are unwilling or unable to deal with the problem.

“I like to keep my village clean. And the village authorities in my village take air pollution very seriously,” says Mr Oudomxay.

“This problem is only getting worse. Fumes from garbage fires are one factor contributing to pollution, and are a nuisance for people nearby who may experience difficulty breathing. This is also a major fire risk.”

Sangveuy village holds regular clean-up sessions on Saturday mornings, when residents gather together to pick up garbage and clean the village.  Areas of dense scrub are also cleared to make the village more attractive.

“We’ve had many foreign residents coming to our office to lodge complaints because these fires are harmful to their health, especially to children. I want all residents of Sangveuy, whether foreign or local, to live in a healthy and sanitary environment,” said Mr Oudomxay.

Mr Oudomxay says his village has also commenced an inspection and education program for offenses related to littering or burning waste. He has put measures in place to punish those found guilty, including monetary fines, and regularly checks for villagers flouting the rules.

He encourages all residents of Vientiane to take a stand against air pollution, and report incidents to local authorities.

Photo: Lao Post

Farmers Like Her: Surpassing Opium Proves Personal As Coffee Grows in Northern Laos’ Huaphan Province

Coffee farmer Ms Her from Huaphan.
Bringing fresh hope and a hot coffee like a brand new day, Vanmai Coffee is a community of families in Northern Laos, growing coffee in a bid to leave behind troubles of opium, conflict, and poverty.
Ms Her has a cheeky smile and a weathered grin may remind you of one of your own Aunties. The mother of four’s visage is hearty enough to put a smile on your face like a strong and flavourful morning cup of coffee.
Farmers Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos' Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

Farmers Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos’ Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

Emerging from around the corner on a cool day among the clouds with a smile, its a warm greeting among the young coffee trees at the cool and high elevations of Laos’ northern Huaphan province.

It’s not only the trees that are growing up. The coffee farming industry up year is younger than the grower.

Producing the popular bean-containing cherries essential to the bittersweet brew is a relatively new pursuit in these hilly parts.

In fact, the trees are so young they are yet to produce their first harvest, which can be expected following the third monsoon, proving that farming truly can be an investment in a more hopeful future.

The previous crop up here?

Opium poppies.

 

 

Farmers Like Ms Her Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos' Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

Farmers Like Ms Her Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos’ Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

A source of both pain-relief and the suffering of dependency and its side effects, the sap producing opium poppy has been an economic staple, a source of income for many of the hardworking farmers of Huaphan for generations.

For some, like Her’s husband, the substance was to prove a fatal addiction.

Listening to her words and the dangers becomes of dependency on the illicit trade become clear.

“Opium has taken away our lives, it took my husband.”

“I mean I never knew that I would end up here,” she reveals.

“I got married to a handsome man in my village.”

“He was a diligent man who knew how to earn money and make sure his family had enough food.

“I loved him and I was happy, we never got married but we stayed together.

“After we got the news that I had given birth to a baby boy, everyone was so happy.

“In our tribe, a son is a gift who will be a successor of the father.

“Our families were so happy that my first child was a son, my husband was also very happy, our life was going very well.

“I then gave birth to two daughters and a son after that as well.

“We had four children who helped us and we worked together as a family like other families in our community.

“We made a living farming together and worked on saving for our children and their education.”

Farmers Like Ms Her Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos' Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

Farmers Like Ms Her Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos’ Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

 
 “But once my husband got addicted to opium, our lives changed.

“He became a different husband and a different father. After a while he couldn’t even work because he was ill so often.

“The family situation got worse. Everyone else had to work more to eat.

“Eventually, both my daughters grew up, got married and left the home.

“My husband became worse and was not able to cope with his symptoms. He died at age 49. 

“I know that my life has no miracles in store, but all I want is a better future for my son than I had.”

“I know that my life has no miracles in store, but all I want is a better future for my son than I had.” – Farmer Ms Her

“I know that my life has no miracles in store, but all I want is a better future for my son than I had.”

My oldest son is addicted to opium now.

“After my husband died, my son was imprisoned for his opium use.

“He was in jail for three months.

“They put him through quarantine so they could get him out of his addiction.

“But after he got out of prison his behavior just got worse and he even threatened to use the little money I saved on opium.

“He has moved out now, found a girl and they live together. They will get married soon.

“I thought that maybe if he gets himself a wife then she will be able to help him out of addiction but I don’t know anymore.

“He is still the same. It makes me sad to see my son becoming like his father.”  

“So many times I think I do not want to live on this earth anymore. But I still have my son.

“I have been working alone trying to earn and make a living for my youngest son.

“So I fight for him. He is 11 years old and he is my only hope.

“Ineed to teach him to be a good person.

“So I put all my energy into growing upland rice and now coffee, and I am saving income to buy his school materials and a new uniform.

“I know that my life has no miracles in store, but all I want is a better future for my son than I had.”

Vanmai coffee is supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) alternative development programme in Lao PDR helping farmers move from cultivating opium to cash crops such as coffee. 

Text Credit: Laotian Times & Van Mai Coffee

Nakhon Phanom Ivory Haul & Bokeo SEZ Seizures Evidence of Disturbing Extent of Illegal Wildlife Trade

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos' Khammuan province.

Thai Police in Nakhon Phanom province have seized 930 items of ivory weighing some 22 kg from a Vietnamese national attempting to bring them across the international frontier from Laos’ Khammouane province, Thai news media reported Monday.

The case follows another major seizure in Laos Bokeo province on December 13 confirmed by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

In the Khammuan-Nakhon Phanom smuggling seizure case, the alleged suspect, a Ms Than Nguen Kee Thanh, 43, was taken into custody at the Thai border checkpoint on Sunday after she arrived by bus from Thakhek in the Lao province of Khammuan, the provincial customs chief Naratchapol Lertratchatapasorn confirmed, Bangkok Post reported Monday.

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos Khammouane.

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos’ Khammouane.

The Nation reported that “officials were conducting a routine check of the bus and the travel documents of passengers at the Third Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge’s border checkpoint in Nakhon Phanom’s Muang district when the discovery was made.”

“The woman claimed she was given Bt2,000 just before she boarded the bus from Laos to take the bag to an unknown recipient at the Nakhon Phanom bus terminal.”

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos' Khammuan province.

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos’ Khammuan province.

 

The move comes after raids and recent seizures of five outlets at a Special Economic Zone in Bokeo province on December 13 in the country’s North-West, near the frontier with Myanmar, undertaken by Lao authorities and documented by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The enforcement is follows a Prime Ministerial order issued 8 May 2018 on the strengthening of the management and control of wildlife and wildlife in Laos.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Laos) welcomed the law enforcement measures, particularly the implementation of Order No. 05, which it said provided for the conservation of wildlife and stop illegal and endangered wildlife trade in Laos.

Images Credit WWF in Laos








The seizures while significant is unlikely to be the last while demand persists for the material and ringleaders remain out of reach.

Say no to Ivory says China's basketball hero Yao Ming.

Say no to Ivory says China’s basketball hero Yao Ming via billboard in Vientiane, Laos.Campaigns to change behavior like that led by China’s basketballer Yao Ming are being welcomed as a way to stem demand by helping to make ivory “uncool”. It is hoped that these can find results in time to save key and iconic species of the natural world.

Say no to Ivory says China's basketball hero Yao Ming.

Responsible tourists don’t buy Ivory, China’s first ever NBA basketball hero Yao Ming tells visitors to Laos.

World Day Against Death Penalty: EU Notes “de facto moratorium” in Laos

World Day against the Death Penalty

The European Union has restated a commitment to work with all countries including Laos to encourage moves toward achieving a global abolition of the death penalty, a government-sanctioned practice whereby a person is killed by the state as a punishment for a crime.

In a statement on October 10 to mark 16th Day Against The Death Penalty also carried in the print version of English daily Vientiane Times and other news media outlets, the European Union welcomed the fact that no sentence of capital punishment had not been carried out in Laos for more than a quarter of a century as well as a reduction in capital crimes in Laos from 18 to 12.

The EU statement read:

World Day against the Death Penalty

“Today the European Union and its Member States reaffirm their strong commitment for the global abolition of the death penalty.

The EU and its Member States encourage all states to work together and support initiatives that will help see an end to the use of this punishment, once and for all. As a sign of its unwavering support to eradicating capital punishment, the EU together with more than 60 countries agreed to step up the pace of its efforts and work towards a United Nations instrument, such as a binding convention, to stop the trade in instruments for torture and the death penalty. Along the same lines, the European Union will co-host the 7th World Congress against the Death Penalty in Brussels next year.

Today 143 states, almost three quarters of the world countries, including all European Member States, have rejected the death penalty. The arguments for executing criminals have been demystified. Capital punishment is often perceived as a measure to deter people from committing severe crimes, including for drug related crimes, but in fact there is no evidence for this argument.

Furthermore, the death penalty imposes an irrevocable sentence. We must bear in mind that no justice system is immune to judicial error. On the contrary, there is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death. We are also convinced that even the most serious crimes do not deprive the perpetrator of the ‘dignity of the person,’ and that decent prisons are capable of fully protecting citizens from dangerous criminals.

In Laos, a de facto moratorium on the death penalty has been applied even though the death penalty is still retained in the legislation. However, no executions have been carried out for more than 25 years.

While a de jure moratorium on the death penalty is still not being considered, we welcome the abolitionist voices that have been recently heard in the plenary sessions of the National Assembly and that the number of crimes punishable by the capital sentence has been reduced from 18 to 12.

Nevertheless, the Penal Code still prescribes death penalty for crimes, including drug-related crimes that do not meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ as intended by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Laos recognizes the importance of this Covenant and the fundamental values thereof.

The EU renews its calls to take effective steps to bring the world closer to ridding itself of this ultimate cruel, inhuman, irrevocable and degrading punishment.”

Signed by the European Union Delegation to the Lao PDR and the Embassies of Germany, Luxemburg, France and United Kingdom.