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Cablegate: Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network Launch: An

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

220802Z Dec 05




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: On December 1, representatives from nine of
the ten ASEAN countries and the ASEAN Secretariat approved
the launch of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network
(ASEAN-WEN), a regional law enforcement network to combat
illegal wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia. The launch
provides a real beginning to structured information exchanges
and cross-border cooperation between national environmental
and law enforcement agencies where no previous structure
existed. A draft MOU on ASEAN-WEN remains unsigned, however,
and key players -- national law enforcement agencies -- have
yet to be brought into the network. The United States, which
has been an important behind-the-scenes supporter of the
creation of ASEAN-WEN, will need to remain fully engaged in
order to encourage the members of ASEAN-WEN to follow up in
forming a fully functional law enforcement network that gets
results. End summary.

An Earnest Beginning...

2. (U) On December 1, Yongyut Tiyapairat, Thailand's
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, hosted a
special meeting of the ASEAN Ministers responsible for the
implementation of CITES (Convention on the International
Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora). The meeting
culminated in an ASEAN statement officially launching
ASEAN-WEN. The statement said that "membership of the
network is open to officials from CITES Authorities, Customs,
Police, Prosecutors, Specialized Governmental Wildlife-Law
Enforcement Organizations, and other relevant national law
enforcement agencies." The statement also noted that "the
first meeting of ASEAN-WEN will be held in early 2006 in

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3. (U) In his welcoming address, Minister Yongyut called the
December 1 special meeting a "historic event" and distilled
into one phrase the central aims of ASEAN-WEN as
"...increased involvement of law enforcement agencies and
better cross-border government-to-government collaboration."
U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, invited to speak because the USG
funded the meeting, added, "Southeast Asia will no longer
consist of ten different countries acting independently of
each other in attempting to stop the trade in animals and
animal parts. Instead, each of your countries will have the
benefit of the knowledge, training, and resources of an
entire region, a region united to end this corrosive
activity." At the conclusion of the meeting, the heads of
delegations to the December 1 special meeting issued a joint
press statement expressing "full support for the
establishment of ASEAN-WEN."

4. (U) The December 1 special meeting was the culmination of
a series of ideas and activities that started with a speech
by Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin at the 13th CITES
Conference of the Parties held in Bangkok in October 2004, in
which he called for the creation of "a sort of wildlife
Interpol" to combat wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia.
At the same CITES Conference, ASEAN issued a statement
calling for further regional cooperation and coordination,
and noting the importance of strengthening the law
enforcement agencies and their integration into CITES
implementation. At an ASEAN meeting in May in Indonesia,
these two ideas were married with the approval of a six-point
ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Flora and Fauna
in which Thailand was designated to take the lead in
achieving the second point -- improved collaboration among
relevant law enforcement authorities in ASEAN member
countries for wildlife law enforcement.

5. (U) The USG endorsed these activities and funded a
Thailand-hosted workshop held in October at Khao Yai,
Thailand's premier national park, that brought together
environmental agencies from the ten ASEAN nations, along with
representatives from the CITES Secretariat, the ASEAN
Secretariat, the CITES Management Authority of the Republic

of China, and officials from the U.S. Department of State,
Department of Justice, and the Department of Interior's Fish
and Wildlife Service. The delegates, including the Chinese
delegate, presented an overview of the wildlife trafficking
situation in each of their countries. The Senior Enforcement
Officer of the CITES Secretariat presented an overview of the
global situation with special emphasis on Southeast Asia as a
region. The U.S. Justice Department representative spoke
about U.S. laws relevant to Southeast Asia and the essential
role of informed and motivated prosecutors. "It is not
enough to confiscate contraband," he said, "You must capture,
arrest, and prosecute the smugglers." The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service (FWS) representative presented details on
best practices and on examples of how the agency has
cooperated with foreign governments in the past, as well as
on FWS resources available to foreign governments. The State
Department representative provided information on the USG's
global Coalition against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT).
WildAid and TRAFFIC, two NGOs intimately involved in
assisting governments to curb the illegal wildlife trade in
Southeast Asia, also provided valuable presentations.
WildAid and TRAFFIC were instrumental in the conception,
design and launch of ASEAN-WEN. On the final day of the
three-day workshop, the delegates drafted an MOU for the
creation of ASEAN-WEN and agreed to convene a ministerial
level meeting one month later at which the MOU would be
signed and ASEAN-WEN officially launched.

...But Hesitancy behind the Scenes

6. (SBU) Inexplicably, however, Thailand delayed sending out
invitations for the ministerial until one week before the
special meeting. In the meantime, there was no communication
between the relevant agencies of the ASEAN governments, with
the result that except for the host country Thailand's
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, no other
ministers showed up for the December 1 "ministerial." In
addition, although ASEAN-WEN is meant to be an integrated
network among law enforcement agencies, none of the
environment ministry representatives who attended the Khao
Yai workshop appear to have communicated with their national
law enforcement agencies in the interim, with the result that
no national law enforcement agencies were represented at the
December 1 meeting. Although these failures in communication
were disappointing, in fact, they only served to call
attention to the utter absence of inter-governmental and
intra-governmental inter-agency communication and
coordination that ASEAN-WEN seeks to address. (Note: In the
days immediately preceding the December 1 meeting, the Thai
environmental ministry requested the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok
to inquire through other U.S. embassies in the region whom
the ASEAN governments planned to send as delegates to the
meeting -- again demonstrating the total lack of a mechanism
for environmental ministries in the region to communicate
effectively with each other.)

7. (SBU) The U.S. State Department's regional environmental
hub based in Bangkok tried to convince the Thai hosts to
invite both environmental ministries and law enforcement
agencies from ASEAN countries to both the Khao Yai workshop
and to the December 1 special meeting. That would not be
possible as it would go against protocol, the hub was told.
When the hub tried to persuade the Thai hosts to invite China
and India, key actors in international wildlife trade and
important partners in any eventual expansion of ASEAN-WEN, to
the December 1 meeting as observers, the Thai environmental
ministry again pleaded "protocol," and invitations were never

8. (SBU) Because of the short notice given to governments
for the December 1 special meeting, Laos was unable to send
any delegate at all. Indonesia, Burma, and Singapore were
represented only by their ambassadors based in Bangkok.
During closed door sessions at the December 1 meeting,
moreover, Malaysia, backed by Brunei Darussalam, said that
signing the MOU would be impossible to achieve at the moment
because it needed more time to review its provisions.
Reportedly, Malaysia, Brunei and other country
representatives expressed reservations about clauses in the
draft MOU that called for the governments of ASEAN member
countries to "allocate the financial and human resources
necessary for the effective enforcement of legislation
governing the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife"
and to "allocate the necessary financial resources to ensure
effective implementation of this Memorandum of
Understanding," as well as to "create a fund known as the
Southeast Asia Wildlife Enforcement Group Fund for programs
and projects associated with the activities of this
Memorandum of Understanding." The representatives opted to
sign a Terms of Reference in lieu of a MOU. The
representative from Malaysia was not even authorized to join
the press statement expressing full support for the
establishment of ASEAN-WEN issued at the conclusion of the
December 1 meeting.

Where Do We Go from Here?

9. (U) Thailand offered to host the first meeting of
ASEAN-WEN in "early 2006." At a press conference following
the December 1 special meeting, Minister Yongyut confirmed
that this will be the first of what are expected to be a
series of regional law enforcement planning meetings and
training courses involving environmental, police, and customs
officers from each ASEAN member country. He did not explain,
however, how the "protocol" issues that kept law enforcement
agencies away from the Khao Yai workshop and the December 1
special meeting would be dealt with to allow them to
participate in the forthcoming meeting.

10. (SBU) Comment: The delegates who attended the Khao Yai
workshop and the December 1 special meeting worked hard and
in earnest to create ASEAN-WEN. Implementation of
ASEAN-WEN's goal of developing a collaborative network of
regional environmental and law enforcement agencies to combat
illegal wildlife trafficking will be ineffective, however,
unless bureaucratic and protocol obstacles can be overcome.
The NGOs WildAid and TRAFFIC will be valuable in helping to
surmount these obstacles, and are being supported financially
in these efforts by a multi-year grant from USAID. Continued
engagement by the State Department's regional environmental
hub and by U.S. missions in the region will be indispensable.

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