VCN – The briefing of Operation Mekong Dragon V took place from April 11 to 13, 2023, in Shanghai (China) with the participation of more than 60 delegates from Customs and police agencies of member countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region, RILO AP Office, UNODC, Environmental Control Board of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and international organizations TRAFFIC, and IFAW.
|Delegates attend the briefing.|
As assigned by the General Department of Customs, representatives of leaders of the Anti-smuggling and Investigation Department (General Department of Customs) attended the conference.
|Within the framework of the briefing, Deputy Director of the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department (Vietnam Customs) Vu Quang Toan and Deputy Director of the Anti-Smuggling Department (China Customs) Vuong Hoa had a bilateral working session to unify key contents in the cooperation of two customs administrations in anti-smuggling based on the orientation mentioned in the joint statement announced from the official visit to the People’s Republic of China by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong from October 30 to November 1, 2022.|
At the opening session, all guests appreciated the meaning and role of the Operation Mekong Dragon Campaign, thereby creating a practical cooperation mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region in the fight against drugs and wildlife and security and safety, and environmental protection.
Jenna Dawson Faber, Regional Coordinator, Global Programmes on Crimes that Affect the Environment at UNODC – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said, “The campaign is symbolic and has come a long way in cooperation between the Customs administration and law enforcement agencies to combat drug and CITES-listed wildlife trafficking jointly.
She emphasized that the illegal trade in wildlife, timber, drugs, and precursors is a major global problem, including in Asia and the Pacific. This activity has generated huge profits for organized crime networks, fueled violence, and threatened the environment and public health. Therefore, it is very important to work together to combat these crimes.
According to Ms Jenna Dawson Faber, Operation Mekong Dragon is an example of international cooperation. Over the years, the campaign has made significant progress in cracking down on many drug and CITES-listed wildlife trafficking cases.
Expand to phase V
Mr Cheon Jeong Park, Chief of Office of RILO AP, said: Phase 4 in 2022 recorded the highest number of participants ever, with 29 members.
This shows that drug and wildlife trafficking is one of the main concerns of member countries and territories. Especially, in more than two years of the pandemic (Covid-19), the drug market and the drug trafficking scale did not decrease. In addition, there have been many tricks to smuggle endangered species of animals. Therefore, it is required that Customs administrations continue to actively fight against cross-border trade in endangered species for environmental sustainability.
Mr Vuong Hoa, Deputy Director of the Anti-Smuggling Department (China Customs), said that thanks to the joint efforts of the parties involved in the campaign, the number of participants and the number of seizures achieved high results and the campaign’s international reputation is expanding. Operation Mekong Dragon is a leading project on customs law enforcement cooperation in the region by all parties, contributing to ensuring customs administrations have appreciated regional security and the campaign.
According to Mr Vuong Hoa, the challenges of drug crime and the environment cannot be effectively solved by the strength of a single country or region or the capacity of a law enforcement agency. Therefore, international law enforcement cooperation and inter-agency cooperation are a must.
Speaking at the briefing, Deputy Director of the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department (Vietnam Customs) Vu Quang Toan said that Operation Mekong Dragon had achieved great success with increasing participation, building certain reputations in combat against smuggling of endangered wild fauna and flora on the list of CITES, drugs and transnational crime.
Mr Vu Quang Toan said that member Customs administrations and law enforcement agencies continue to work together to improve the efficiency of seizing and destroying criminal rings.
At the brief, the delegates jointly evaluated the achievements in the implementation chain from Phase I to Phase IV and agreed on the Mekong Dragon Campaign V implementation plan in 2023.
Operation Mekong Dragon co-initiated by Vietnam Customs and China Customs, was launched in September 2018 and received great technical support from the UNODC’s office and the RILO AP Office of the World Customs Organization (WCO) as well as the consent of the Customs administrations of six countries in the Mekong sub-region.
Up to phase IV, the campaign has 29 law enforcement agencies in the region and phase IV has expanded to include some African countries.
By Thai Binh/ Huyen Trang