3 Vietnamese arrested in Thailand for smuggling rhino horns

By Staff reporters   September 24, 2017 | 02:09 am PT
The group was busted trying to smuggle about $453,000 worth of rhino horns from Angola to Vietnam.

Customs officials in Thailand have arrested three Vietnamese nationals, a man and two women, for attempting to smuggle 7.4 kilograms (16 pounds) of rhino horn, according to the Bangkok Post.

The three, aged 27 to 56, were detained early Friday upon arrival at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport from Ethiopia following a tip-off customs officials had received.

An x-ray scan of the group's suitcases revealed 15 pieces of rhino horn with a total weight of 7.4 kilograms hidden inside. The horns have an estimated street value of about THB15 million ($453,000), the newspaper reported.

During interrogation, the suspects claimed they had been hired to smuggle the horns from Angola to Hanoi, with transits in Ethiopia and Thailand. They were previously working in Angola before accepting the smuggling job for THB32,000 each.

Thai authorities have charged the three with smuggling animal carcasses without permission, in breach of the Customs Act, the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Animal conservationists say rhinos are being poached in Africa every day to meet demand, mostly from China and Vietnam.

Vietnam has strict laws that ban the sale and purchase of rhino horn, but they have failed to protect the critically endangered animal. Their horns are considered a status symbol and are used for decorations and in medicine.

The country developed an appetite for rhino horn about a decade ago under the belief it could cure cancer, a myth conservation groups have bristled at. Vietnam’s last Javan rhino, a rare Southeast Asian species, was found dead in 2010 with its horn hacked off.

Backed by the government, public awareness campaigns have helped discourage the trade, and prices have fallen from their peak of $70,000 per kilogram several years ago.

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