Opening address by His Excellency
Prime Minister of Thailand
Mr.Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment
Mr. Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General of the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,
Mr. Kenneth Stansell, Chairman of the Standing Committee of CITES,
ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Government and people of Thailand, I would like
to extend to you all a very warm welcome to Bangkok, and to the
13th meeting of the Conderence to the Parties to CITES. We are particularly
honoured since this is the first ever such gathering to be held
in Southeast Asia. Thailand is proud to host this important Convention,
and we hope that your time here proves to be both memorable and
productive. We thank you for travelling to our Kingdom, and for
the valuable work you will be conducting over the next two seeks
on the globally important issues surrounding endangered species
on our planet today.
We recognize that these important issues are critical for our country,
our region, and our world at large, I can well appreciate that the
problems facing you are not easy ones to resolve. Over the years,
CITES has proved to be an essential instrument in matters of nature
conservation. Unfortunately, such conservation is constantly under
threat from criminal activities and human greed: therefore, so much
depends on your concerted efforts today.
As the leader of a country that has experienced the adverse after-effects
of the illegal cross-border trading of endangered species, I would
like to underscore the increasing need for all of us to step up
our international law enforcement cooperation through CITES. Certainly,
Thailand wants to make CITES work for all of the countries in the
world by finding a way, at this meeting, to increase our global
cooperation in the reduction of nature related crimes.
As we all know, the destruction of our natural resources poses a
global threat to the health and biodiversity of this planet. The
often unseen trafficking in protected species of plants and animals,
not only contravenes the law and diminishes the richness of our
natural world, but, also ultimately deprives us of our humanity.
Globally, the illegal trading in wildlife, timber and other natural
resources is now surpassed only by the trafficking in drugs and
weapons. This, in itself, is a shocking statistic. To make matters
worse, it as been found that criminal elements involved in conventional
forms of organized crime are often linked to this illegal trade
in wildlife and timber.
Another problem is that any increase in legislation to protect
plant and animal species, often results in corresponding increase
in the resolve of dishonest people, who are determined to violate
the law for their own quick profit. It is incumbent upon us to meet
this challenge-through serious concerted efforts and stringent law
ladies and gentlemen,
Animals and plants certainly have a high profile in people's consciousness.
But there are many less obvious but equally precious ecological
and geographical systems upon which human populations depend for
food, air and water. Our national parks, sanctuaries, waterways,
and wilderness are not simply places for recreation. They are also
rich reservoirs of biodiversity, contributing to national food production,
human wealth and well-being, as well as economic prosperity for
In every sense of the word, our natural resources play a crucial
part in the security and welfare of our peoples, but effective national
and regional security is also dependent on the ability of all parties
to work together to find the necessary solutions to our existing
problems It is dependent on the will of all Parties to join together
in search of these solutions. And it is dependent on our common
determination to facilitate law enforcement in the implementation
of such solutions. Surely, creating solutions in nothing, without
vigilant law enforcement. In saying this, I am speaking not only
as a Prime Minister, but also as a former police officer.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Like so many other countries that are rich in biodiversity, Thailand
has been targeted by criminal elements involved in the illegal international
trade in endangered species. Protected forests have been violated
and indigenous species have suffered, all for the sake of profit.
In this regard, Thailand recognizes the need to better protect
its natural resources for the sake of future generations. Therefore,
we have stepped up our law enforcement efforts to better comply
with CITES directives. We have set up 'task force' units all over
the country to respond quickly to information about illegal trade
in wildlife specimens. This has already resulted in a reduction
of the illegal trade in this country, although much more remains
to be done.
The problem, however, extends well beyond our borders and jurisdiction.
Acting alone, we cannot fully eliminate the illegal activity, even
in our own country. Acting together, we can all make a difference
in tackling this serious problem. To be sure, there is no country
that can fight this battle alone.
For this reason, I am convinced that increased government-to-government
cooperation in fighting these nature crimes is absolutely essential,
if Asia is to maintain its precious natural resources. Our unique
wildlife which is an integral part of our national pride, deserves
nothing but our very best effort. Our lush national parks, our watersheds,
our protected areas, and our beaches, rivers and mountains are all
a responsibility that we must shoulder diligently, I am certain
that what I am talking about must sound familiar to all of you since
you have been devoting your time and energies to this very important
We have assembled here from all over the world-from different races,
cultures and geographical settings. Any yet, what I have to say
about Thailand can also be said about the countries you all have
left to attend this Conference. The problem is truly global and
challenging. I, therefore, suggest that our common response must
also be global. The key challenge, however, is in its implementation.
Towards this end, I would therefore like to propose that Thailand
is prepared to take the lead in the formation of a new "Southeast
Asian Regional Law Enforcement Network to Combat Nature Crimes".
If this distinguished body agrees with such an idea, Thailand is
ready to host a meeting in 2005 to work out the details of establishing
such a network. Once established and successful, this proposed Network
could, at some time in the future, join forces with other law enforcement
networks around the world. I ask that you give serious consideration
to this idea, and also seek the advice of those who have succeeded
in similar efforts. By learning from one another's successes and
failures, we will be able to take a shortcut towards achieving our
In closing, I would like, once again, to take this opportunity
to welcome you all to Thailand. I hope that your stay here is an
enjoyable and productive one. I hope that the next two weeks will
provide an opportunity to bring all of our nations closer together,
and that we will make significant strides in securing real and lasting
protection for all of our natural resources. Let us join hands to
end the illegal international trade in wildlife-for our own sake
and for the sake of our children.
Thank you very much.