Sunday, January 9, 2011

The plight of the elephant, 2 cases in point

“Anyone who thinks he understands the situation here simply does not know the facts” [1]  40 plus years later it’s as true as it ever was and certainly applies to the plight of the Asian Elephant.

1.  Elephants Butchered and sold

Surin province is the home of way too many domestic elephants.  The people there are faced with problems of insufficient land, not enough food and not enough good water.  Good people have made good efforts but they are not enough.  Any time, any place that there are problems of sufficiency up crops the greedy to worsen the situation.  .

A couple of days ago I heard that a temple in Surin was selling the remains of deceased elephants.  Below is the article that appeared in one of the prominent English Language newspapers here in Thailand. Judgment I will leave to those who think they understand the situation, or at least have enough information and influence to try to affect change.

Click This -->>  Elephants Butchered at temple in Surin <<---Click 

One thing I do know for certain is that when we were in Surin we saw a lot of sick elephants.  Tong Tae was one example

Tusks to support

Tong Tae was so tired

2. Street Begging Mahouts attack Tourist!

There is a lot of politics around the subject of street begging elephants. As I now understand it, street begging is actually big business in Thailand.  Elephants are owned by business men who rent them to young wannabe mahouts who in turn make their living by forcing the elephants to beg on the city streets.  Much has been written on the subject.   Suffice it to say, street begging is bad for the elephant and should be banned.
Street Beggar from Surin
In Chiang Mai there is pressure to stop the begging.  It’s not uncommon to see people passing out flyers encouraging people to refuse to give money to the mahouts and to refuse to feed the elephants.  Recently there were two elephants that showed up in a bar in Chiang Mai while there were several tourists who were against the street begging.  They were passing out flyers and asked the mahouts to take there elephants off the streets.  No confrontation occurred at the bar.

A short time two Australians left the bar.  Without warning they were attacked from behind by a band of Thai men with elephant hooks and knives.   The young man had to be hospitalized for head wounds.  His female companion received superficial wounds as well.  Apparently they were detracted from their attack by several local Thai people who worked in the area of the attack, a man passing by in a car and the baby elephant who was the subject of the protest in the first place.  What I write here is all hear say, I was not present.  I have talked to several people involved and am most impressed by the story of the elephant actually interceding!
The Australian man received several stitches in his head.  He was released from the hospital a few days later and is now recovered. 

The police became involved and a court date was set. Only one of the attackers was brought to trial. I’ll not speculate as to why he, and not the others, was taken to court.  Typical the hearing was postponed, a delaying tactic known to any defense attorney here or anywhere else in the world.  As people were eaving the courthouse that day a friend of mine, who happens to have an excellent command of the Thai language, overheard a policeman tell the father of the accused that everything had been taken care of.  In other words the hoodlum would receive no punishment for his vicious attack.

Other officials have expressed a desire for  court to make an example of him.  There are people actively involved in seeking witnesses and trying to convince them to testify.  In addition to the area employees, there is an interest in somehow finding the man in the car.

Hopefully this story will end with a real banning of street begging in Chiang Mai.  The photo’s in this page were taken at different times and are not intended to represent the actual attacker. 
Working the streets

[1]  Unidentified CIA agent who was quoting an unidentified diplomat in South East Asia during the 1960’s. (See "Air America", page 94, by Christopher Robbins).

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