22kg of ivory seized from passenger on bus from Laos

Authorities examine the trafficked ivory seized from a Vietnamese woman who arrived in Nakhon Phanom by bus from Laos on Sunday. (Photo by Pattanapong Sripienchai)

NAKHON PHANOM: Officials have seized 930 items of ivory from a Vietnamese woman attempting to bring them into the country from Laos.

Provincial customs chief Naratchapol Lertratchatapasorn said on Monday Than Nguen Kee Thanh, 43, was taken into custody at the border checkpoint on Sunday after she arrived by bus from Thakhek in the Lao province of Khammuane.

A search of her luggage found a total of 930 pieces of tusk and ornaments, weighing 22 kg in all. Authorities estimated the value at 1 million baht or more.

The suspect, from Ha Tinh province of Vietnam, said she was paid 2,000 baht to traffic the ivory from Vietnam and drop it at the bus terminal in Nakhon Phanom for another person to pick up, Pol Col Naratchapol said.

Her statement was not convincing. Authorities suspected she was a member of a syndicate smuggling ivory into the country.

The ivory probably originated in Africa, he added.

Mrs Thanh was charged with smuggling ivory and possessing ivory without permission. The first charge carries a fine of up to 6 million baht and/or three years' imprisonment, the second a fine of up to 3 million baht.

It was the first seizure of trafficked ivory in Nakhon Phanom.

Officials along the northeastern border are keeping an eye out for ivory being smuggled from neighbouring countries following the confiscation of a shipment in Nong Khai earlier this year.

They believe smugglers have changed their routes, from using air transport to travelling overland. 


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