Thai Police had charged Bach for running an illicit supply chain that smuggled horns of endangered rhinos, worth $65,000 (B2.06 million) per kilogram, through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.
On December 12, 2017, Wildlife Quarantine officer Nikorn Wongprajan was arrested at Suvarnabhumi after he was caught concealing 11kg of rhino horn valued at $700,000 (B22.26mn) 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, who had planned to pick up the horn at the airport.
He too was arrested and convicted.
Evidence ultimately pointed to Boonchai 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, a frontline counter–trafficking organisation, provided training and analytical support to Thai authorities about Boonchai and a wider syndicate called “Hydra”, of which Boonchai was 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.”
Boonchai was 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.