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Cablegate: Usaid-Supported Wildlife Enforcement Conference Highlights

VZCZCXRO6938
RR RUEHAST RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHNH RUEHPB RUEHPOD
RUEHTM
DE RUEHHI #1184/01 2900957
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160957Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8624
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5221
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001184

STATE FOR OES/ENRC (SCASWELL AND HSUMMERS)
INTERIOR FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (KWASHBURN AND KSENHADJI)
JUSTICE FOR ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES (JWEBB)

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SOCI EAGR VM
SUBJECT: USAID-SUPPORTED WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS
WEAKNESSES IN VIETNAMESE EFFORTS

REF: A) 07 HANOI 1763; B) HANOI 398; C) HCMC 156

HANOI 00001184 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary. A recent USAID-supported workshop on the
prevention of wildlife trafficking detailed the massive scope of the
problem but a lack of enthusiasm from Vietnamese attendees showed
that signatures on international conventions and the passage of
wildlife protection laws will not be enough without Vietnamese
engagement at the political level. Official corruption, a lack of
coordination between enforcement agencies and small fines hinder
prosecution of wildlife crimes. End Summary.

2. (U) On August 21-22, 2008, EmbOffs joined Vietnamese prosecutors,
judges, and environmental police and their Thai, Malaysian and
Indonesian counterparts in Hoa Binh for a "Workshop on Preventing
and Combating Wildlife Crime" to share information about regional
wildlife trafficking, wildlife crimes in Vietnam, and challenges
facing Vietnamese efforts to respond to wildlife smuggling. John
Webb from the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of
Justice indicated the urgency of the problem
as Southeast Asia serves as a hotspot for the multi-billion dollar,
international wildlife trade. With smuggling routes
well-established from drug and human trafficking networks and rich
bio-diversity, ASEAN countries act as an efficient exporter to
China, the United States, the European Union, and Japan. Wildlife
trafficking rings within Southeast Asia also procure animal products
from outside the region, such as rhinoceros horns and elephant
tusks from Africa, which they ship around the world using regional
air and sea hubs, particularly Bangkok. Internet shopping and
overnight delivery services facilitate quick and easy shipment of
endangered species, and require a coordinated regional and
international response to combat it.

Wildlife Smuggling Remains Rampant in Vietnam
---------------------------------------------

3. (U) According to the Vietnam office of INTERPOL, illegally traded
wildlife in Vietnam primarily consists of pangolins, various species
of rare snakes, and monkeys, with an annual value in the tens of
millions dollars (Ref A). Normally transported alive, many animals
die in transit due to poor care and exposure to non-native
environments. Within Vietnam, the lucrative illegal wildlife trade
attracts a diverse group of participants, ranging from farmers and
underemployed rural villagers to high-ranking government officials
and well-connected trading companies.

4. (U) Focused on meeting local consumer demand and linking up with
international smuggling routes, the illegal wildlife trade centers
on Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and border provinces. The Vietnamese
Environment Police Department (EPD) identified several main wildlife
transportation routes: by road or rail from Hanoi north to the
cities of Lang Son (Ref B) and Mong Cai on the Chinese border, and
from the western borders with Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City. Once
near the border, wildlife smugglers take advantage of mountainous,
sparsely populated topography to enter into China. At other times,
well-organized rings use compromised government officials, members
of social organizations, or organized crime syndicates to pass
through border posts.

GVN Offices Involved in the Fight
Against Wildlife Trafficking
---------------------------------

5. (U) The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
(CITES) Management Authority, within the Forest Protection
Department (FPD) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development (MARD) has the lead in implementing CITES in Vietnam,
licensing and managing captive wildlife breeding farms, and issuing
or revoking CITES certificate, CITES permit, the export/import
license of samples of rare and valuable wildlife. Customs forces
directly involved in the fight against these crimes include the
Smuggling Investigation Department (SID). In November 2006, the
Ministry of Public Security established the EPD, which has offices
in all 64 provinces and nearly 2,000 staff to prevent and
investigate environmental crimes. According to Colonel Luong Minh
Thao, EPD's Deputy Director General, EPD has probed over 200 cases
and initiated nearly 100 formal investigations of violations of
Vietnamese environmental laws, including wildlife statutes.

6. (U) According to Mr. Nguyen Manh Hien, Director of Department 1
of the Supreme People's Procuracy, the GVN response remains

HANOI 00001184 002.2 OF 002


uncoordinated. The various entities with a stake in protecting
wildlife - MARD, Customs, local People's Committees, local police,
and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) often
fail to communicate with one another. High ranking officials within
these bodies do not see wildlife protection as a priority (or profit
from its continuance). According to Dr. Pham Loi, Deputy Director
General of the Institute for Law Science, GVN law enforcement
officials consider the investigation of drug- or terrorism- related
cases more important and focus their limited resources in these
areas. Additionally, many customs authorities lack the awareness
and training to identify illegal wildlife shipments and invalid
certificates.

7. (U) Despite its weaknesses, according to statistics from the
Supreme People's Procuracy, from 2000 through 2008, authorities
initiated 600 formal wildlife crime investigations targeting 865
persons, resulting in 481 prosecutions of 776 defendants. Reflecting
the transnational nature of the problem, most prosecutions take
place in provinces bordering China, Laos or Cambodia, especially
Lang Son, Quang Ninh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Dac Lak, Lam
Dong and Tay Ninh.


8. (U) Vietnamese officials face roadblocks to investigations and
prosecutions. A senior EPD official noted that the existing Penal
Code does not allow his agency to temporarily arrest suspects, keep
relevant exhibits or issue search warrants. According to Nguyen Van
Hien, Deputy Director of the Penal Legislation Department of the
Institute for Law Science within the Ministry of Justice, although
the GVN has issued many laws and decrees regulating wildlife crimes,
many legal loopholes exist. For example, in violation of the CITES
Convention, many farms have been established in Vietnam for captive
breeding of bears, monkeys, and tigers (Ref C). Yet, officials have
not punished violators as these actions are not explicitly regulated
in the existing Penal Code. Similarly, the Penal Code requires
"serious consequences" or identifiable damages (in terms of value of
the involved wildlife) be identified prior to authorizing
prosecution. Unable to answer these questions, wildlife protection
officials remained stymied. Even when investigations lead to
prosecutions and convictions, sanctions for wildlife crimes remain
too small to deter violations. For the illegal exploitation of
protected forests, natural resources and animals, fines range from
around USD 300 to USD 3,000 - a small fraction of the profits
offenders can enjoy from illegal wildlife trade. Many prominent or
well-connected violators avoid even these small fines. Though
Vietnamese law authorizes imprisonment, almost no violators ever see
the inside of a jail cell.

PALMER

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