PETALING JAYA - A Malaysian man has been arrested by Thai police for allegedly being behind an international illegal ivory trading network.
According to AP, Teo Boon Ching, 51, was arrested on Thursday after Thai police seized 51 pieces of African ivory weighing about 135kg on Dec 31 last year in northeast Thailand.
The ivory was valued at about 5.8mil baht (S$244,644).
According to the report, national police chief General Somyot Pumpanmuang was quoted saying that Teo and his Thai accomplice Sirichai Sridanont, 50, are accused of trading and smuggling African ivory through Thailand's southern border.
He said the arrest followed a Dec 31 bust of 51 pieces of ivory in a northeastern province. The ivory was worth about 5.8 million baht (RM663,964).
Thailand is one of the top destinations for African ivory smuggling in Asia. It may be sanctioned by an international body that regulates flora and fauna trade unless it can show progress in solving the problem, the report read.
Teo, who was also seemingly paraded by Thai police in Bangkok yesterday, was said to have made "frequent visits" to Thailand, Kenya and other African countries.
Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos Mamit told parliament on Thursday that the Government was thinking of coming up with stronger penalties for those caught smuggling endangered animal trophies.
He said a total of 4,624 elephant tusks were seized in 11 separate cases between 2011 and 2014.
Poachers have killed tens of thousands of African elephants for their tusks in recent years to meet the high demand for ivory in Asia.
China has imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports amid criticism that its citizens' huge appetite for ivory threatens the existence of Africa's elephants.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora may sanction Thailand unless it can show progress in solving the ivory smuggling problem in the country.
The country is scheduled to submit a report on its progress in handling the problem to CITES at the end of March.
If CITES is not satisfied with Thailand's progress, it could impose sanctions that will affect the country's exports of orchids, fancy fish and leather.
This could cost 40 billion to 50 billion baht in losses, said Thai Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Dawpong Ratanasuwan.