MAIL BAG [email protected]
Worried about elephant camps
My wife and I visited Mae Sa elephant camp last Thursday and had a very
enjoyable time watching the elephants at play and getting up close and
personal to one of the elephants who gave my wife a neck hug in response to
being given a 100 baht note donation. The camp was clean and tidy and the
elephants seemingly well fed and healthy. All good fun until I read a letter
in the Bangkok Post on Saturday exhorting readers not to go to elephant
camps, not to have elephant rides and not to buy elephant paintings because
the training methods used are cruel and barbaric. Since then I have watched
some website videos showing graphic details of young elephants being kept in
small cages while being beaten and starved in order to break their will and
they become ‘amenable’ to training.
This leaves me confused. Can elephants who have been cruelly beaten produce
such sensitively painted pictures? Can elephants with their acknowledged
intelligence and memory be severely beaten by their mahouts but still be
gentle towards the general public? I have worked in India and during the 12
months I was in Kerala there were several reported cases of mahouts who had
been cruel to their elephants being dumped into a well by the elephant who
would then stand over the well keeping rescuers at bay until the mahout
Your current edition of Chiang Mai news gives front page cover to the
Elephant Day celebrations at Mae Sa camp but I wonder if you, or any of your
staff, or any of your readers can give comment on these allegations of
cruelty in training. I have granchildren visiting me later this year and a
visit to Mae Sa is in the programme but if it can be proven that there is
cruelty behind the scenes then we will certainly not be going again.
Thank you for contacting us, if you check our elephant story on Page 13 last
issue you will see that Mae Sa Elephant Camp works closely with CMU
Veterinary School. Something to consider, at the very least. However, we
will be happy to check into some of the camps and publish if we hear back.
Airport open 24 hours
My wife often comments that I read the CM Mail from cover to cover. It’s just as
well that I do given the article regarding the airport expansion was given so
little coverage in your previous issue! I note that the Vice President of AoT
provided information that an OTOP center would be set up on the parking lot –
given the present limitations on car parking space I find it quite amazing that
AoT can simply ignore the needs of local people. To add fuel to the fire, the VP
then added that the airport would be open 24 hrs a day! WHY?
Over 160 International airports worldwide have restrictions on night time
flights – why would CNX need to be different? The main beneficiaries would be
the airlines (reduced costs per km by better aircraft use) and AoT (fees).
Passengers do not normally wish to arrive/depart in the middle of the night.
Certainly the thousands of local people affected by aircraft noise will not want
their sleep disturbed on a regular basis. It is well recorded that noise can be
an environmental stressor.
Did AoT do any local consultation – if so, with whom? What do the Mayor of this
fine city and the Governor of the Province have to say on the matter. Certainly
the mayor has promised to improve the city environment – does this include noise
pollution rather than simply air?
While not an engineer, I would imagine that the limiting factor is the number of
bays since landing/take off slots even with a single runway can be quite high.
The recent announcement allows for three more bays – how many flights per hour
does this enable in normal working hours – say 0600 until 2300hrs. What is the
justification for the 24 hour flight permission given the thousands of
households that will be affected?
It would appear to me that AoT has no consideration whatsoever for local people
and their needs but I am open to correction,
A future insomniac?
Why do foreigners complain so much?
I recently had a Thai friend ask me this question, “Why do foreigners complain
so much?” I realize that it is not always the way here to complain about things
that cannot be fixed but I felt this question was a little unfair. I do actually
speak some Thai, enough to understand a fair amount of conversation and what I
hear is actually many Thai people complaining.
“Oh this weather is so hot, it is just too hot,” is a typical complaint often
repeated by many Thai people. Another one does have to do with the smoke, more
than a few Thai friends have complained about having a sore throat or headache
due to the smoke. One complained to me about his neighbors burning leaves and
couldn’t understand why they did so even when the smoke was so bad. I overheard
another man complain to his friend about how bad the traffic is and how there
are too many cars on the road now.
I see Thai people complaining on Facebook a lot too. Also about the smoke, the
traffic and the weather. Usually not about other people so much but those seem
to be the top things to complain about lately.
I realize that this is anecdotal evidence but I think that there are many more
out there. If Thai people really don’t complain at all then perhaps that person
can explain to me about all the political troubles over the past few years.
Surely this is people complaining?
To the Facebook poster
who thinks it’s all Chiang Mai
Social media is often used to blatantly belie the truth and vent opinions which
are neither well founded nor well written. Such as recently on the Chiang Mai
Mail Facebook page, where someone pointed out that the haze problem was caused
all directly from within Chiang Mai.
This isn’t even remotely true, stating that the source of the haze is only smoke
isn’t true either, that it is only burning rice fields isn’t true either, as it
isn’t true that this is a national problem.
Next to rice there is also garbage, dry leaves and undergrowth being burnt,
shortly to be followed by the corn fields. The particles from this burning do
swarm around in the air we inhale, but in combination with the city pollution,
dust, debris, etc … stirred up due to the extreme dry circumstances relevant to
But burning goes on in so many places, Vietnam, Laos PDR, Myanmar, Cambodia,
looking at the radar images of the area shows the whole area is ablaze with
forest fires, so this truly is an international problem, one that should be on
the agenda of ASEAN, together with each separate national agenda.
To further the misery we are in, the cold inversion which is keeping the hot,
polluted air in our beloved Chiang Mai valley prevents refreshment of the air we
are living in.
There are several things that can be done, but it’s much harder to tackle than
just tell people to stop burning. Cultural tradition combined with cost
efficiency of burning vs composting, as well as the reduction of viral load on
rice plants in constant rotation. When rice is planted twice a year, the viral
infections will spread if the straw is just plowed in, so burning is almost the
only resource. While I certainly don’t condone any of these practices, solutions
should be more geared towards farmer’s realities. Good initiatives from Maejo
University and other research institutes, as well as local government offices
are under way; teaching the benefits of crop rotation, mulching and composting
and even paying people to turn in their organic matter for composting in a
composting bank, to name a few.
Change comes by evolution, not by revolution, so educate people and yourself…
Learning more about fires in Chiang Mai