U.N. agency praises Thai leadership in fight against crime

Thailand has emerged as a leader in Southeast Asia in terms of crime prevention and advancing the criminal justice system, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said last week during a high-level U.N. meeting in Bangkok on crime prevention and the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Thailand is playing an important role in promoting crime prevention and criminal justice to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Importantly, Thailand has also been a strong advocate for providing farmers with sustainable livelihoods away from illicit drug cultivation,’’ Yury Fedotov, executive director of UNODC, told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview.

Fedotov was speaking on the sidelines of the High-Level Conference on Sustainable Development, Crime Prevention and Safe Societies, held in Bangkok last week. The conference was organized by the UNODC and the Thailand Institute of Justice.

While the open borders and integration of the AEC (Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community) have many positive economic benefits, Fedotov said transnational criminal gangs are also exploiting the free flow of people and goods.

Open borders are being used to smuggle narcotics, weapons, people, timber and wildlife, he said. Money laundering and corruption go hand-in-hand with these criminal enterprises he said.

“Our regional analysts have been reporting year-on-year increases in seizures of high-purity crystal methamphetamine and tablet, or yaba, methamphetamine for six or seven years now. The impact is being felt most acutely on users and communities; but we are also seeing law enforcement and justice authorities being overwhelmed as they try to manage the situation,” Fedotov told the Post.

Aside from those crimes, cybercrime and environmental crime are also on the rise. He credited Thailand and other countries with helping to reduce some forms of environmental crimes.

“The illegal killing of elephants is down from its 2011 peak, possibly thanks in part to countries such as Thailand taking stringent measures to prevent trade of African elephant ivory. But we need to do more to protect our natural heritage from the predations of criminals,” Fedotov said.

The executive director said, however, that Thailand is helping to lead the way in tackling some of these problems. The Kingdom has been a force in promoting global discussions about justice reform, including prison reform through the Bangkok Rules for the Treatment of Women Offenders, which Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for Southeast Asia, has personally supported.