BANGKOK, Thailand, May 11 2018 – The Samut Prakarn Court of Justice, this week sentenced 41 year old Vietnamese-Thai national Boonchai Bach to 2.5 years in prison for wildlife related crimes, following his arrest on January 18th for rhino horn trafficking. Thai Police had charged Mr. Bach for running an illicit supply chain that smuggled horns of endangered rhinos, worth $65,000/kilo, through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. On December 12, 2017, Wildlife Quarantine officer Nikorn Wongprajan was arrested at Suvarnabhumi after he was caught concealing 11 kilograms of rhino horn valued at $700,000 that had been smuggled from Africa into Thailand by a Chinese smuggler. Thai Police and Customs collaborated to track the shipment to a family member of Boonchai Bach, who had planned to pick up the horn at the airport. He too was arrested and convicted. Evidence ultimately pointed to Boonchai Bach as the financier.
The horn was destined for Northeast Thailand where it would be smuggled across the Mekong River to Laos for onward shipment to buyers, either in Vietnam or China.
Freeland provided training and analytical support to Thai authorities about Boonchai Bach and a wider syndicate called “Hydra”, of which Boonchai is a senior member.
“The Suvarnabhumi Airport Police team should be strongly commended for making wildlife safer from this major wildlife criminal and his wider circle of poachers and traffickers,” said Freeland Chairman Kraisak Choonhavan. “This case doesn’t rest however, and we look forward to seeing more positive actions develop out of this conviction.”
Bach is charged under the Thai Customs Act (Sec.244 and Sec 244 – Phase 1), Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, B.E.2535 (Sec. 23 – Phase 1, Sec.24 – Phase 1 and Sec. 47), and Animal Epidemics Act B.E 2558 (Sec.31 -Phase 1 and Sec.68).
The demand for rhino horn has been escalated in recent years, especially in Asian countries. Demand is driven by misapprehension of medicinal properties and, increasing, belief that ownership conveys social and financial status.