BANGKOK, Thailand — Thai authorities have arrested two men accused of trying to smuggle tiger bones and meat to Vietnam on a bus, police said Thursday.
The two suspects are Vietnamese nationals who allegedly paid around $900 for the products in Tak province on the Myanmar border, and planned to sell them back home for consumption.
Nattawat Wingthongtavipon from Muang Phitsanulok police station told AFP that the men were arrested late Wednesday in Phitsanulok province after a tip-off.
“We found the guys…with an oversize bag, and the inside was stuffed with the smoked carcass and meat of a tiger, which they confessed were destined for Vietnam,” Nattawat said.
The men were charged with possession of a protected species and are in police custody.
Across the region tiger populations have been decimated due to poaching.
Thailand is a popular hub for the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife market and is also one of several countries in Southeast Asia — including Vietnam — where activists say tiger breeding farms have contributed to the trade in the animal’s parts.
Around 30 percent of tiger products seized between 2012 and 2015 were suspected to originate from captive tigers compared to just two percent between 2000 and 2003, according to a study by the NGO Traffic.
In 2016 the kingdom made international headlines after police raided its infamous Tiger Temple, a tourist site accused of links to the trade.
Animal rights groups have also decried the use of tigers in amusement parks where they are prodded to pose for photos with tourists.
In Vietnam, tiger bones are boiled down and used for traditional medicine, while stuffed tigers, teeth, claws or tiger skin is used for decoration or jewelry.
Baby tigers and tiger parts are also steeped in wine in some areas.
Vietnam is notorious for the consumption of illegal wildlife parts and as a popular transport route for animals destined for China and other parts of Asia.