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Thai ivory merchants jittery over rules

BANGKOK, March 10 (UPI) -- Ivory dealers in Thailand say the government's new controls on their trade will likely cause illegal sales to increase.

Officials said last week they would crack down on the illegal trade of African ivory in Thailand, but owners of Bangkok's busy ivory stores and carving workshops warned their industry would be pushed underground where rules were more likely to be flaunted.

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"Thailand has adopted many laws and regulations to control the domestic ivory trade, but many shops did not comply with them," shop owner Suchart Apasarokul told the Bangkok Post. "Authorities should take legal action against the violators instead of issuing a blanket ban."

Ivory from captive elephants raised in Thailand is sold legally while ivory sourced from the wild is banned. Environmentalists have long suspected the legal ivory supply is supplemented by ivory from prohibited sources.

The Post said the government was proposing increased inspection and tighter scrutiny of domestic ivory inventories. Merchants said that would open the door for a total ban on all ivory production, which would drive legitimate enterprises out of business and leave the field to the black market.

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