(Vientiane, 20 May 2011) – The Government of Lao PDR is kick-starting its new Law Enforcement Task Force to Combat Wildlife Crime named “Lao-WEN”. Lao-WEN is a national effort to stop poaching, trafficking and illegal trade of protected flora and fauna. Today the Inaugural Meeting of Lao-WEN is being held in Vientiane to begin a process of strengthening wildlife law enforcement, part of a broader regional effort called the ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN). Representatives from the ASEAN-WEN Program Coordination Unit (PCU), Vietnam-Wildlife Enforcement Network (VN-WEN) and Cambodia-Wildlife Enforcement Network Coordinating Unit (CWCU) are observing the event to share best practices.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry document titled: Forestry Strategy to the Year 2020 for the Lao PDR is intended to guide the development of the forestry sector within Lao PDR. One recommendation contained within the Forestry Strategy was to enhance the existing legal framework in support of a new law enforcement and governance process.
The Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI) was created to inspect and investigate suspected violations of the new Forest Law, the Wildlife & Aquatic, the National Penal Code and other subsidiary laws. DOFI works in close collaboration with the Department of Forest Resource Conservation and other government departments on a wide variety of environmental protection initiatives to address these high expectations.
In September 2010, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry announced the government’s implementing mechanism to operationalized national commitments to the ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN). Today’s Lao-WEN Inaugural Meeting in Vientiane will commit Lao PDR to the international effort against wildlife crime in partnership with other Southeast Asian Nations.
ASEAN-WEN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network. It is the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network that involves police, customs and environment agencies of all 10 ASEAN countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. Through annual meetings, workshops and trainings, ASEAN-WEN facilitates increased capacity and better coordination and collaboration of law enforcement agencies between Southeast Asian countries, regionally and globally.
The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, His Excellency Sitaheng Rasphone said, “Today, we are pleased to welcome representatives of the Lao PDR Government and government departments, international non-government organizations, sponsoring agency representatives, local community groups and private industry to the inaugural meeting of the Lao Wildlife Enforcement Network. The success of Lao-WEN will involve collaboration between both national and international partners. The Department of Forest Inspection will work hard to meet our commitments to ASEAN and the high expectations required through membership in ASEAN-WEN.”
Mr. Phoumy Phoumanivong, Director-General of the Department of Forest Inspection said, “This inaugural meeting of “Lao-WEN” is a practical example of our commitment as a partner to the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network. We look forward to working with the ASEAN law enforcement community and our local community groups. Together we will develop programs and strategies that prevent, detect and suppress wildlife crime that endangers not only our rich biodiversity, but also national security and human health“
Mr Manop Lauprasert, Senior Officer of the Bangkok-based Program Coordination Unit of ASEAN-WEN added that, “The ASEAN-WEN PCU is pleased to see the networking progress in Lao PDR. A very positive step in ensuring that wildlife crime does not flourish in this region. Let it be stressed that we are not merely protecting endangered plant and animal species in the ASEAN region. We are protecting the sustainability of our own future. The illegal wildlife trade weakens natural ecosystems, supports organized crime, and is recognized to increase the risk of transmitting emerging infectious diseases such as avian pandemic influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).”
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Bounthanh Philanchanh
Department of Forest Inspection, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao PDR
Phone: 856 20 2240 1099 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ASEAN-WEN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network. Under ASEAN-WEN, CITES, police, customs and environmental management agencies are forming national task forces and cross-border intelligence sharing links to successfully curtail the wildlife trade. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) under its new and expanded support program, implemented by Bangkok-based FREELAND Foundation with the Royal Thai Government and in kind support from ASEAN member states are jointly providing support towards ASEAN-WEN’s operations and capacity building initiatives.