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     Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has just issued a new directive instructing authorities and law enforcement agencies across the country to take urgent measures to combat the illegal trade in wildlife. According to the Directive, the Government is aware that its current approach has not stamped out the illegal trade and that “illegal activities, including processing, handicraft making and trading, and openly selling wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horns are still taking place”.

     The Prime Minister has urged provincial and city authorities to scale up their efforts to tackle wildlife crime by instructing relevant agencies to “monitor, investigate and apply serious punishment to those involved in illegal trade of ivory and rhino horn, as well as inspect craft villages, processing workshops, souvenir shops in tourist spots, airports, seaports, and traditional medicine shops”.
     The Directive also makes it clear that the days of impunity for wildlife criminals must come to an end.

 

A rare kind of gibbon is taken care of at the Bình Dương Forest Management Department

after being rescued from an illegal wild animal-raising enterprise in the province

 

     It instructs the Ministry of Police and other concerned ministries to organise campaigns to destroy trans-border organised crime groups, who are involved in trading, storing, trafficking, importing/exporting illegal specimens of wildlife species, especially ivory and rhino horn. The Prime Minister has ordered that the results of the inspections, monitoring exercises and prosecutions must be published in the media. This is particularly significant since Việt Nam has reported no successful prosecutions of rhino horn traffickers despite the widespread evidence of illegal trade.

     The unexpected Directive comes just a week before 181 nations gather in South Africa for the world’s most important wildlife trade meeting - the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - where Việt Nam’s lack of progress on tackling wildlife trafficking will be in the spotlight.

     According to Policy Manager of WWF - Việt Nam Trần Lê Trà, this Directive shows that the Vietnamese Government is aware of the seriousness and scale of the illegal wildlife trade in the country and admits that much more needs to be done to tackle it. There are concerns that this Directive might turn out to be stronger on paper than in practice, especially as a similar announcement was made in 2014 but with little effect.

     But the new Directive stresses that authorities will be held accountable for their action - or lack of it. According to the announcement, Heads of Party Committees and local governments are responsible and accountable to the Prime Minister if violations of regulations on wildlife are discovered. The decision also comes just days after it was announced that the Wildlife Justice Commission would hold public hearings in November following its investigations into the illegal wildlife trade in Việt Nam.

 

Quỳnh Như (VNS)

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