Corruption, Organised Crime and Extinction in SE Asia

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Palm oil is an edible oil derived from the fruit of several species of palm trees. It has many uses, from cosmetics to food to biofuels. It is cheap to produce, the most efficient source of vegetable oil, and is “in about half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket” (WWF).
The initial impression is that palm oil can be all things to all people. In SE Asia, however, where 90 per cent of palm oil is produced, the land which is suitable for plantations is the same as land suitable for rainforests, prompting the wholesale clearance of rainforest habitat so that palms can be planted.
Some of the clearance and planting is, at first inspection, legal. Closer inspection reveals that land is granted illegally, as a result of graft and corruption, and that the corruption continues in the operation of the plantations.
Various “sustainable palm oil” initiatives have been created, which in effect are legitimising previously unsustainable forestry clearance, but these labels are little-known and little-understood in the consumer market.
This paper uses Orangutans as an example of species which are being driven to extinction by a combination of corruption, greed, and organised criminality. It explores the opportunities for criminal network that are created by this environment.
Orangutans are what is known as a “keystone” or “indicator species” or “barometers of the well-bring of the forest. Declining orangutan populations are a sign that the forest and all that live in it are in trouble” (Thiessen, 2014, p46) and it is likely that at current rates all three species of Orangutan will be extinct within 20 years.
The paper concludes that unless measures are put in place to reduce demand for palm oil, and control political and criminal corruption, species extinction is the inevitable consequence.
Period2 Oct 2020
Event titleEnvironmental Crimes Conference 2020
Event typeConference
LocationSt Helier, JerseyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational