The Jungle Crook - Environmental corruption in Laos

Laos, cocooned by Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and China, is implementing multiple development initiatives, akin to its Southeast Asian neighbors to transition and transform its economy. It, however, like many nations worldwide, is a victim to environmental corruption – the exploitation for advantage of flora and fauna.

Corruption is rarely far from the headlines, but the particular effects of bribery and fraud on wildlife and landscapes are under-discussed and slamming the brakes on the potential of burgeoning economies. In probing this plight, regional dynamics clearly matter. Neighboring China may be the largest investor in Laos, but last year's ban on ivory coupled with last week's relaxation on the trade in tiger bones and rhino horn leak demand across borders.

Businesses cannot afford to neglect the environment where they invest; the setting for billion-dollar infrastructure projects; the habitat of the workforce; the resources they rely on and the risks if it all goes wrong. Appropriate steps are therefore needed to vet prospective engagement and investment – due diligence, supply chain oversight, third-party review, and cultural and regulatory adherence. Laos' environmental riches and its economic priorities – the hydropower powerhouse of the region; extensive forests; its drive for ecotourism warrant protection and attention as it becomes a setting for your investment.

Our article examines where Laos remains vulnerable, citing the illicit ivory trade, illegal logging, land grabs, and animal trafficking, and why these issues matter for governments, businesses and individuals. The review of recent years does show promise, and we chart a number of anti-corruption developments within the jungle state.

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