Wooden judge's gavel and calculator over some financial documents

The US-sponsored Asia-Pacific Judicial Symposium on Best Practices in Environmental Courts and Adjudication, held online from June 17-18, brought together dozens of global judicial leaders and experts to advance environmental law in the region.

It comes after USAID reported a surge in illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia and China, highlighted by seizures of 155,795 kilos of pangolin products and 552kg of tiger products in 2019 – a small fraction of the true picture.

Thailand is currently drafting its own rules of procedure for environmental cases, which the US says will now be informed by international best practices following the Judicial Symposium. The event promoted Thailand’s regional judicial leadership in Asean and advanced Thailand’s own environment courts agenda, it added.

“The United States government remains fully committed to its partnership with regional and national leadership across Asean to deter wildlife crime, conserve biodiversity, and uphold the rule of law for the regional stability that underpins a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Michael Heath, Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Thailand.

The event saw the Thai Supreme Court and counterparts from the US, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines discuss best practices in environmental courts and adjudication, including handling environment crimes such as illegal wildlife trafficking.

The symposium was billed as the culmination of a two-year cooperative effort between USAID Wildlife Asia, the Thai Supreme Court, and other partners like UN Environment Program (UNEP) to support the Thai judiciary in advancing its own environment courts initiative.

“We are confronted by a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. More than ever, the judiciary must be innovative and bold when handling environmental cases. Judges should endeavour to promote environmental rights with their decisions to help address this triple crisis and ensure a sustainable future for the people they serve.” said Isabelle Louis, UNEP’s deputy regional director for Asia and the Pacific.