Vietnamese faces six years in jail for smuggling elephant tusks into Thailand

By Nguyen Quy   December 18, 2018 | 05:56 am PT
Thai authorities plan to prosecute a Vietnamese woman after finding 22kg of elephant tusks in her luggage.

Nguyen Thi Thanh, 43, from the central province of Ha Tinh, was stopped at the border checkpoint in Nakhon Phanom, a northeastern province in Thailand as she was sitting in a bus from Thakhek in the Lao province of Khammuane, the Bangkok Post reported.

When police searched her luggage, they found 930 items of elephant tusks and ornaments worth an estimated $60,340.

Thanh faces criminal charges for smuggling and possessing ivory without permission, and can be jailed for up to six years under the Thai Penal Code.

The woman told the police that she was paid $61 by an unnamed Lao citizen to carry the ivory products to a bus stop in Nakhon Phanom for another person to pick up, police said. However, authorities suspect she is a member of a smuggling syndicate.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African pachyderms dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

Vietnam also outlawed the ivory trade in 1992, but the country remains a top market for ivory products which are prized locally for decorative purposes and for traditional medicine, despite there being no proof of its medicinal qualities.

Weak law enforcement in the country has allowed a black market to flourish, and Vietnam is also a busy thoroughfare for tusks trafficked from Africa destined for other parts of Asia, mainly China.

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