Address by H.E. Suvit Khunkitti, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand

Saturday 2 October 2004

Your Excellency, Prime Minister Mr Thaksin Shinwatra,
Mr. Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme,
Mr. Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),
Mr. Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee,
Your Excellencies,
Honourable colleagues,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome to the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre. It is appropriate that such a global gathering of conservation-minded decision-makers be conducted in a convention centre that is named in honour of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, who has made conservation of wild fauna and flora a personal cause, and has had a long and distinguished record of actively supporting numerous conservation organizations and projects in Thailand.
We are deeply honoured by this opportunity to host the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - CITES - more so because it is the first CITES CoP to be held in Southeast Asia. We regard this as recognition of the work that we have carried out in recent years in promoting the conservation and sustainable use of resources not just by Thailand but by the whole of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen
With the final addition of Lao PDR in early 2004, all 10 member countries of ASEAN now are Parties to CITES. With this shared commitment to CITES, ASEAN is preparing to take up its biggest challenge - conserving the natural heritage and resources of one of the richest regions of biodiversity in the world, while meeting the challenges of rapid economic growth and integration, and expanding social aspirations of our growing population.
CITES is one of the most successful international environmental conventions because it has not only found a working balance between meeting conservation and development needs, but also translated this balance to practical action on the ground. 
Thailand, as a member of CITES for 21 years, is determined to play its part in the successful implementation of CITES Resolutions. We recognize the dual needs of education to increase awareness of the implications of wildlife crime, and effective law enforcement.
To educate the public about the problems and encourage them to act responsibly, we have worked with NGOs to broadcast on popular radio programmes. We run training programmes to all relevant groups on conservation issues and the importance of protected areas. Education programmes at our Nature Education Centres have also been very effective, reaching thousands of young Thai people with the conservation message.
From the period October 2546, (2003) to Sept 2547 (2004), our National Parks Division has answered 518 calls about cases of trafficking in illegal wildlife specimens. From these cases they have arrested 449 people, confiscated 14,017 animals, and 12,162 animal trophies. Twenty-one of these cases involved trading in illegal ivory, and we have confiscated 8,598 elephant tusks, and arrested 21 people.
On the legal side, we have reviewed our Wildlife Protection Act to tighten and improve legislation against perpetrators of crimes against wildlife.
We want to build on these successes and hope that our efforts towards closer regional cooperation on wildlife trade issues is significantly enhanced in the coming months and that sufficient resources, structures and mechanisms are established to ensure these processes continue to flourish and to evolve for the benefit of wild fauna and flora.
I welcome you to Thailand - please be sure to enjoy the warmth of our people, the richness of our culture and the wealth of our biodiversity.
I also hope that you make full use of the opportunity these coming two weeks to ensure the continued development, application and effectiveness of CITES, and the conservation of wildlife species in trade, for many generations to come.
Thank you.