On behalf of elephants, the 1.5 million people who signed a petition to this end, and all the other people who care about their welfare, including the ecosystems where they continue to exist in the wild, we extend our strongest thanks for this announcement–years late but still very much appreciated. We hope, following the smiling moment at this important meeting, you will back it up with strict enforcement (click the image to the left for the full press release on the CITES website):
On behalf of the Government and people of the Kingdom of Thailand, I would like to welcome all of you to Bangkok, for the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES CoP16.
This is the second time that CITES CoP is being organized in Thailand, the first time was in 2004. This reflects two things. First, this shows that Thailand attaches great importance to CITES and the contributions that CITES have made to wildlife conservation. On the 40th anniversary of CITES, I would like to congratulate CITES on all the achievements in protecting endangered species and also on four decades of successful international cooperation.
And second, I believe that the return of CITES CoP to Thailand shows the trust and confidence that CITES has in Thailand’s contributions to protecting wildlife, conserving natural habitats and promoting cooperation. From better enforcement efforts to enhanced regional cooperation in ASEAN and beyond, Thailand is playing our part to take forward the CITES agenda, in particular in protecting endangered species.
Let me stress that promoting conservation and preservation of wildlife is our priority. We are implementing a National Master Plan of Wildlife Resources Conservation 2005-2014 that sets clear targets. This includes increasing effectiveness to achieve standardized wildlife and habitat conservation, and pursues programmes to return rare and endangered species back to their original habitats. Thailand also aims to protect the environment which provides the national habitat and ecosystems for species. For example, the Dong Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex and the Thung Yai-Huai- Kha Kaheng Wildlife Sanctuaries in our country which are rich in bio-diversity and recognized as world heritage sites. This broader approach not only better protects wildlife but also supports the Government’s policy to promote sustainable development and green growth.
But the goals of the CITES can only be achieved through cooperation across national boundaries. That was why at the 13th CITES CoP in Thailand , we helped initiate the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network or ASEAN WEN which has made a lot of progress in areas such as capacity building and harmonization of regulations. With the ASEAN region containing much of world’s known plant, animal and marine species, ASEAN has a lot to contribute. As ASEAN becomes a more connected Community in 2015, it will be more important to protect the region from illegal cross-border activities. So I hope that protection of wildlife and cooperation against illicit trade in endangered species will become part of ASEAN’s strategy to reduce the negative impact of enhanced connectivity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you are in Thailand, I wish to take this opportunity to focus on elephants, as they are very important for Thai culture. Throughout our history, elephants have been the pillars of development for our nation. In the past, our kings have used elephants to defend our independence. In modern times, the Thai Royal Family, in particular, Her Majesty the Queen, has played a leading role in Royal Projects that return elephants to their natural home. That is why you may have seen that elephant appears in our national flags and some of these are still officially used by the Royal Thai Navy and Thai Ambassadors.
In addition to being part of the Thai culture, it is natural of us to protect elephants simply because we must respect all forms of life and their natural habitat. Just like humans, elephants also have feelings and emotions, therefore, we need to be more caring in our treatment towards elephants. That is why we need to increase the number of elephants living in their natural habitat. We are implementing our CITES obligations by cooperating to combat international trafficking in ivory. Unfortunately, many have used Thailand as a transit country for the illegal international ivory trade.
The government measures to tackle this problem are as follow;
- First, the Government has enhanced intelligence and customs cooperation with foreign countries, which has helped limit the smuggling of ivory from African elephants.
- Second, we are strictly enforcing the current legal frameworks, by limiting the supply of ivory products to only those made from domestic elephants which is legal under the current legislation. Domestic elephants are also legal for use as local means of transportation in hilly forest areas. This can be done by enforcing comprehensive and system-wide registration of both the domestic elephants and ivory products and thereby further exposing illegal ivory trade and products.
- Third, as a next step we will work towards amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end to ivory trade and to be in line with international norms. This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.
Once again, I must stress that no one cares more about elephants than the Thai People. We are prepared to work in partnership with all stakeholders, form civil society to local communities to CITES Parties.
A safer world for wildlife and endangered species remains our shared goal. I am confident that our cooperation and commitment to protecting wildlife, this 16th CITES CoP will be successful. Thank you.