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Elephants on the streets in Chiang Mai
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
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.
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.
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.
And the fires keep on burning
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
Smoked out in Doi Saket
Motorbike thefts on the increase?
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.
Worried about my bike