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Vol. XIII No.10 - Sunday May 18, 2014 - Saturday May 31, 2014


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Elephants on the streets in Chiang Mai

Dear Editor
I would like to draw your attention to a very disturbing sight I witnessed on Nimmanhaemin Road a few nights ago… an elephant. A very young one at that – around four-six years old. Really, still a baby.
I was under the impression that the practice of using elephants to ‘beg’ on the streets and outside bars and cafés is in fact, illegal in most of Thailand – certainly here in Chiang Mai - and yet when my friend (who I was with) called the tourist police, she was told that it was nothing to do with them, and that she should contact City Hall. Weirdly, when another friend rang them, they said they’d send someone out straightaway… which they didn’t.
I understand that perhaps the tourist police might not be the best option for reporting this kind of thing but for those of us who don’t speak fluent Thai, we have little choice. Who *do* we turn to to report incidents like this? What help is available? And is anyone actually enforcing this law?
My friends and I followed the elephant (who was in a sorry state, and very unhealthy), along soi 6, and into the car park by the big vodka bar… ironically, just by the elephant statues. I managed to get some photos of the mahouts’ faces, their family - who were ensconced in the back of their truck, the licence plate of the truck, and more importantly, a clear image of a mahout using a bullhook behind the elephant’s ear.
The image (enclosed) also shows evidence of the miserable existence that this young elephant has endured in its short life; scars (some still bloody, some older), a tight hula hoop around its neck, and blood on its head and ear. Of course, the psychological scars don’t show up but the behaviour of the elephant clearly showed the distress it was in.
I appreciate that life can be incredibly hard here for rural people and immigrants, so I understand why they do what they do - I don’t like it but I understand it. I don’t know what the solution would be; take away the elephant, throw the mahouts in jail … what happens to their families? And actually, what then happens to the animal? Or do we turn a blind eye, and allow the abuse to continue? As ever, I don’t believe there is a simple solution but surely there must be a way that helps both animals and humans? I firmly believe that we cannot help the animals unless we help the people.
In the meantime, I would urge all readers of Chiang Mai Mail to refrain from encouraging this exploitation; furthermore, should they see begging elephants outside the places they frequent, to inform their fellow diners and drinkers of the illegality (and the abuse), and ask them to not engage on any level with the elephant or mahout. Perhaps if there was no demand, the supply would decrease, or even stop all together.
For a country which reveres these magnificent beasts, it seems utterly incongruous that people would treat elephants so inhumanely.
Kind regards,
Nicole
Editor’s response:
Dear Nicole,
Thank you for reporting on this sad case, former Governor M.L. Panadda Diskul banned elephants from the streets of Chiang Mai a few years ago and for a time, the practice stopped.
I note from the photo of the license plate you sent me that the truck comes from the province of Surin, which is home to the Surin Elephant Round up and is the center of elephant husbandry in Thailand. There are over 300 elephants registered there. The Surin Provincial Administration Organization has set up a center in cooperation with the Elephant Nature Foundation to help mahouts and elephants in Surin. I would strongly recommend that you contact them as well to let them know Surin mahouts are now traveling the distance to Chiang Mai to have their elephants beg on the streets. http://www.surinproject.org/home.html
Additionally, contacting the Governor’s Office at City Hall is a good idea; many of the officials there do speak English so a trip in person would probably be best. It is illegal under Chiang Mai statutes.
Yours,
Shana Kongmun
Managing Editor


And the fires keep on burning

Dear Editor,
This is my neighbor who likes to burn her mulch on a regular basis. I am amazed that after the terrible smoke and smog of March that she continues to burn, and yet she does. She burns as often and whenever she likes and doesn’t seem to care if affects her neighbors or not. In fact, sometimes I am sure she turns and looks my way when she starts her fires.
When will people ever start to learn that this is not the way? The authorities need to get their education campaigns in high gear now, not just before the smog season starts. Enforcement of the laws would be nice too but I think that may be too much to ask
Signed
Smoked out in Doi Saket


Motorbike thefts on the increase?

Dear Editor,
I recently read online that there has been a rash of motorbike thefts around the city, some of them parked in people’s driveways, others in public places. What are the police doing about this problem, if anything? I recall reading last year I think that they caught some gang stealing bikes and selling them in Lamphun. (I think, maybe Lampang). Have they tried coordinating with neighboring provinces to track these bikes down?
Most people cannot afford to lose their bike in this way so I really hope the police are doing something about this. It would be great if they actually patrolled neighborhoods to deter thieves but that does not seem to be done here. This is really too bad because I believe it would be a deterrent to thieves if they knew that the police would swing by at random times of the day or night.
I am going to buy a chain to lock the tire to the body of the bike but I heard rumors that they sometimes just pick up the bike and put it in the back of a truck when they steal it. I guess a chain on the wheel wouldn’t really deter that kind of thief, just the kind that tries to drive off with it.
I do have a lock to lock my helmet to my motorbike and so that slows the helmet thieves down but would really like some advice on how to slow the actual bike thief down and would like ot know that the police are actually on the ball and doing their jobs.
Signed
Worried about my bike


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Elephants on the streets in Chiang Mai

And the fires keep on burning

Motorbike thefts on the increase?

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Note: Letters printed herein in no way reflect the opinions of the editors or writers for Chiang Mai Mail, but are unsolicited letters from our readers, expressing their own opinions. No anonymous letters or those without genuine addresses are printed, and, whilst we do not object to the use of a nom de plume, preference will be given to those signed.
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