BANGKOK: Due to its strategic location, the sleepy seaside town of Kuala Perlis has become one of the routes used by wildlife smuggling syndicates to traffick a variety of exotic animals to China.
From the jungles in Indonesia, these exotic animals, including pangolins and even orang utan, endure an arduous journey across the sea and land to Kuala Perlis, Padang Besar, Hatyai and Laos to reach their main destination, China.
“The syndicates choose the Padang Besar route because it is the closest route from Indonesia to Thailand.
“They (the wildlife traffickers) travel by boat from Indonesia to the Kuala Perlis port in Malaysia and then to Thailand.
“(Kuala Perlis) is about 40km from the Padang Besar border,” said Padang Besar Thai Customs Service Division director Arthit Visuttismajarn.
Nevertheless, he cautioned that Kuala Perlis-Padang Besar was just one of the many smuggling routes taken by the syndicates to send their “goods” to China, to satisfy that country’s burgeoning demand for exotic animals.
He said should the traffickers succeed in crossing the Malaysian-Thai border in Padang Besar, the exotic animals were handed to other members of the syndicates in Hatyai, who take it to the Thai-Laos border and to China.
Hatyai is an important transit route for wildlife smuggling syndicates.
Thai Customs officials have identified about 11 “risky points” along the 12km stretch of the Thai-Malaysian border separating Perlis and the Sadao district of Songkla, which have been used by wildlife smugglers, and have increased monitoring.
Arthit said that on June 7, his men managed to stop the smuggling of endangered turtles and rare coral at the border.
However, the biggest seizure of exotic wildlife was on July 21 this year at the Padang Besar Immigration Checkpoint when the authorities stopped a Malaysian-registered pickup truck transporting various types of endangered animals, including a pair of two-month-old orang utan hidden inside a suitcase.
Other exotic animals seized from the vehicle were the endangered Hamilton tortoises, Indian Star tortoises and six racoons, said Arthit, adding that a 63-year-old Malaysian driver was detained for questioning.
The Malaysian, who faces 10 years in prison upon conviction, had alleged he was paid to send the animals to another man in Hatyai.
According to Arthit, the Padang Besar customs unit had seized more than 500 pangolins at the border checkpoint over the past several years.
Most of the pangolins, he said, came from Indonesia with Thailand serving as the syndicates’ transit point before they headed for China. — Bernama