By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The Commerce Ministry has joined forces with the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department to stringently regulate ivory traders and encourage them to register with the ministry, to prevent illegal trading and protect Thailand from international sanctions.
Pongpun Gearaviriyapun, director-general of the Commerce Ministry's Business Development Department, said it would work closely with the Conservation Department, which is under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, to halt illegal ivory trading.
Thailand has been fingered as one of eight countries where illegal trading in ivory and rhino horn is a problem, and the Commerce Ministry's permanent secretary has assigned Pongpun's department to take action.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has warned that Thailand could face an international wildlife-trade ban unless it reins in its ivory sector, which is a magnet for traffickers. CITES has set a deadline of next March for Thailand to fall into line or risk wide-ranging sanctions.
Thailand needs to submit a report by January on the steps it has taken to bolster laws on registering ivory importers, traders and legal stockpiles.
Pongpun said this was a national problem that needed to be solved urgently. Her department has cooperated with relevant agencies in ivory-trading areas to encourage registrations.
Under Thai law, all shops selling ivory are required to register with the Commerce Ministry, regardless of their size. However, many have failed to do so.
The department will send officials to Jatuchak Market and Tha Phrachan, two areas of Bangkok well known for their ivory shops. After that, officials will survey other districts and provinces.
She said the department would stringently enforce the law for traders who have not registered with the department. Under the Commercial Licence Act BE 2499, ivory enterprises such as carving plants and crafting plants, retail and wholesale outlets, and traders dealing in ivory products must register with the government.
According to a Commerce Ministry report last year, Thailand's trade in products under CITES's control was worth Bt3.31 billion, down by 0.67 per cent compared with 2012. The top three export products are orchids, reptile leather (including snakeskin and crocodile leather), and leather prepared after tanning or fitting.
Import of products under CITES's control was worth Bt450 million last year, an increase from 2012 by 55.53 per cent. Major import products are reptile leather, caviar, and various live plants, cuttings and spores.