By Nina Rygh, Asia Reporter
Thai police arrested Boonchai Bach, a 41-year old Thai in late January of this year. He was arrested for smuggling protects animal parts of rhino horns and elephant ivory into the country. Police said the suspect was the “ringleader” of a major smuggling syndicate and they have been operating for over a decade.
He was arrested for smuggling 14 rhino horns worth around US$ 1 million from an African country to Thailand.
Boonchai is suspected to have been working with a wildlife quarantine officer Nikorn Wongprajan who was arrested in 2017 for concealing 11 kg of rhino horns. Police tracked the shipment back to a family member of Boonchai, who also were arrested and convicted, but evidence ultimately let to Boonchai Bach as the financier of the operation.
Steve Galster, founder of Freeland, who have been assisting in the investigation, said Boonchai’s arrest is Thailand’s “largest wildlife crime case ever”.
“This network is connected to a group of moneymen who may be living outside the country. We are working to get arrest warrants out on those people as well,” said Gen. Chalermkiat Sriworakhan, the deputy national police commissioner.
On the 11th of May 2018 Boonchai Bach was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for wildlife related crimes.
Mr. Galster, the Freeland founder, believes that the arrest marks a significant moment for anti-trafficking initiatives, but that officials must continue to track down these networks.
“This arrest spells hope for wildlife,” Mr. Galster said in a statement. “We hope Thailand, its neighbouring countries, and counterparts in Africa will build on this arrest.”