Police Arrest Suspected Kingpin of Wildlife Trafficking

Thai customs officials display seized ivory in 2016 during a press conference in Bangkok. Photo: Sakchai Lalit / Associated Press

BANGKOK — Police have arrested a suspected kingpin of wildlife trafficking who allegedly fueled much of Asia’s illegal trade for over a decade.

Police say Boonchai Bach, a 40-year-old Thai man of Vietnamese descent, was arrested Friday in a northeastern border province in connection with the smuggling of 14 rhino horns worth more than USD$1 million from Africa into Thailand last month in a case that also implicated a Thai official and Chinese national.

He denies the charges against him.

Boonchai allegedly ran a large trafficking network on the Thai-Laos border that spread into Vietnam. According to the anti-trafficking group Freeland, he and his family played a key role in a syndicate that smuggled poached items including ivory, rhino horn, pangolins, tigers, lions and other rare and endangered species.