The Lawless 'Golden Triangle'

The Lawless 'Golden Triangle'

Posted by Sam Hopkins on 20th Mar 2015

We were shocked to read about the 'Golden Triangle' in yesterday's Guardian newspaper. Renowned the world over for the trafficking of people and wildlife and for the laundering of proceeds from the narcotics trade, 'The Golden Triangle' is a strange choice for a 'tourist hotspot' to emerge. Straddling three countries in South-East Asia (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar), the region offers tourists the chance to enjoy, as Jeremy Hance from The Guardian argues, a "Lawless Playground".

So why are people coming here? In Myanmar and Laos, especially near the borders of Thailand and China where casinos are banned, gambling tourism is the tourism of choice, touted to attract the wealthier Chinese and Thai clientele. Unfortunately, with the dark side of the casino industry comes significant repercussions. As argued in a report by the Environment Investigation Agency (EIA), human trafficking for the sex trade is prevalent within the area, as is wildlife crime. A whole host of critically endangered species are under threat as a result, with leopards, elephants, tigers, rhinos and a range of bear species just a few of the more iconic victims falling foul of the issue.

So what's the solution? As Debbie Banks, the head of EIA's Tiger Campaign contends, "wealth and demand are definitely the drivers here…action has to come from the top". Though she maintains that Laos and Myanmar need to conduct thorough investigations and "strengthen trafficking laws", she also argues that China has a massive responsibility here. As one of the world's leading powers, China has both the manpower and the know how to conduct thorough investigations and, as Banks states, "If any country can put the resources into these specialised investigations, it is China".

However, whilst a crackdown on the anarchic 'Golden Triangle' would certainly be a step in the right direction, it almost certainly wouldn't rectify the overall problem. The fight, unfortunately, is still an insurmountable one due to the constant demand of exotic animal parts by wealthy clients – willing to pay anything for a snort of rhino horn or a glass of tiger wine for 'traditional' and 'cultural' purposes (see our blogs on the tiger trade and rhino poaching to read more about this). The demand by the wealthy is so insatiable for 'socially prestigious' animal parts that China has more tigers in captive farms (bred solely for killing) than there are wild tigers on the planet – 5,000 compared with 3,200. This is an utterly shocking statistic, and it's clear that something needs to urgently be done in order to combat this change.

Whilst a range of media campaigns fronted by Chinese celebrities (including actress Zhang Ziyi) have recently surfaced hammering home the problem, there is still plenty more to be done if much of the world's natural heritage is to be preserved. As seen last year with the drop in shark fin soup in China (see the news story here), there can most definitely be success stories. Dedicated conservation projects and volunteer schemes, like those offered by The Great Projects, are definitely a way forward and a massive help in fighting wildlife crime.

However, social change through education is paramount within the aforementioned countries in order to combat the issue fully. As Hance argues, "social change must come fast if it's to be in time to save Asia's vanishing natural heritage". Sadly, as long as there is still the demand and the 'prestige' associated with consuming exotic animal parts, the fight seems like it will be an ongoing one.

What are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you! Email us via [email protected] or contact us via our social media channels to let us know your solutions and opinions on the matter. Have a great weekend everyone – TGP Team.


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