The new legislation was announced over the weekend, at the opening ceremony of a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) conference in Bangkok.
“This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa,” Yingluck said in a statement.
Thailand had come under mounting pressure from environmental groups such as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and TRAFFIC, who had been calling on CITES to sanction Thailand, as well as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo for their part in the illegal ivory trade.
The unregulated Thai market offers ideal conditions for laundering illegal African ivory into its system before being sold on, environmentalists believe.
“Prime Minister Shinawatra now needs to provide a timeline for this ban and ensure that it takes place as a matter of urgency, because the slaughter of elephants continues,” Carlos Drews, head of WWF’s delegation said to CITES.
Thailand is the largest illegal ivory market in the world, following China, with most of the ivory bought by tourists visiting the country.