Elephant group attacks taskforce over DNA tests, seizures (Thailand)


Samrit Jeamjarunpornkul, The Nation

Date Published

The Ayutthaya Elephant Palace & Royal Kraal plans to lead elephants from across the country to Bangkok on National Thai Elephant Day to demand that the Phaya Suea, or “Tiger King”, taskforce is disbanded.

Laithongrien Meephan, owner of the elephant palace and president of the Thai Elephant Club, said that if Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha ignored their demands on March 13, they would bring elephants to various sites across the country in protest

Laithongrien presided over a meeting of representatives from various elephant camps from across the country, which resolved to establish a club for “anti-corruption, animal rights protection, promotion for National Parks Department reform and the eradication of evil”.

Most of the participants were dissatisfied with the Phaya Suea team’s work, which included checking the state elephant DNA bank and the seizure of elephants whose characteristics did not match identification documents.

They claimed the department’s DNA checks had flaws, which they believed to have stemmed from a problem within the agency.

State agencies were urged to perform their own internal probes and reveal information about elephant DNA test results for the years 2014 and 2016 as well as data about the agency’s budget.

They also wanted authorities to check the accuracy of elephant identification documents. The group said they would ask Prayut to invoke Article 44 of the interim charter to enforce the demands.

Laithongrien also said that DNA test results for two domesticated male elephants at the Royal Kraal called TG and Koh Phaya Petch, as well as TG’s purported mother Namwan, were accurate but a departmental error in data storage resulted in a mistake.

The Phaya Suea team confiscated TG, Koh Phaya Petch and Namwan and confined them at a Prachuap Khiri Khan-based zoo earlier this year pending further investigation.

The team told the press last Friday there were irregularities in the two male elephants’ identification documents including about their markings. Also, DNA test results in 2014 showed that TG and Namwan were not related, which disagreed with a 2016 test result performed at the Royal Kraal.

The conflict between the elephant camp and Phaya Suea arose as the country plans to register more than 3,440 domesticated elephants – almost 99 per cent of the animals’ total documented population in Thailand – for a fresh round of DNA checks to meet a March deadline.

The DNA checks are meant to verify the animals’ origins to re-evaluate the country’s elephant population and to help to close loopholes involving the illegal smuggling of wild elephants and incorrectly registered domesticated elephants.