ASEAN-WEN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network. It is the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network and involves law enforcement agencies of the 10 ASEAN countries. The network facilitates inter-agency and cross-border collaboration in the fight against the region’s illegal wildlife trade.
In October 2004, Thailand hosted the 13th UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). During the meeting, the Thai government proposed creation of a new wildlife law enforcement network among ASEAN countries. ASEAN member countries formally launched the network on 1 December 2005.
All 10 countries of ASEAN – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand – are members ASEAN-WEN.
The secretariat is called the Program Coordination Unit (PCU). Based in Bangkok, Thailand, the PCU helps coordinate trainings and workshops, organizes annual meetings, facilitates communication, and builds high-level support. Currently there are two full-time officers operating the PCU.
Partner countries and intergovernmental organizations include the United States, CITES Secretariat, Interpol, United Nations, The network is exploring possible partnerships with China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Non-governmental organizations include FREELAND, TRAFFIC, and Wildlife Alliance.
It is very serious. The multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade supplies the world’s third-largest black market, surpassed only by illicit commerce in arms and drugs. Southeast Asia is a global hotspot for the poaching, trafficking, and consumption of illegal wildlife parts and products. Among the reasons for this are the region’s high biodiversity, well-established smuggling routes, and accessible transport links.
Illegal wildlife dealers utilize well established and highly organized cross-border networks. Governments must respond in kind if they want to stand a chance combating the illegal wildlife trade. All too often, the task of investigating and apprehending wildlife offenders in Asia is left to environmental agencies, which frequently lack the authority or the capacity to stop major wildlife crimes.
The network operates on two levels: national and regional. On the national level, each country operates an inter-agency task force comprised of police, customs, and environmental officers. Task forces form the backbone of a regional network dedicated to battling trans-national wildlife crimes. The concept is similar to already-existing networks dealing with other trans-national crimes such as drug smuggling and human trafficking.