Government House threatened with elephant siege (Thailand)


Soonthorn Phongpao, The Bangkok Post

Date Published

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The owner of the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace has threatened to lay siege to Government House with 100 elephants if he is charged with illegally acquiring elephants.

Laithongrien Meepan, proprietor of the large kraal in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district, said on Monday wildlife authorities had unfairly accused his organisation of dishonestly identifying some elephants. This would cause trouble for elephant keepers in general. 
He convened a meeting of elephant keepers from about 20 kraals nationwide at his premises on Monday. Mr Laithongrien said they formed a club to fight against unfair treatment by the authorities, including Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, head of a national park and wildlife protection team at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. 
As the head of the club, Mr Laithongrien said they would file a complaint with the government and seek the transfer of some wildlife officials. Mr Laithongrien was responding to Mr Chaiwat’s announcement on Friday that DNA checks had found inconsistencies in the identification of some elephants at the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace. 
The team seized three elephants pending legal action. One was a five-year-old female named Phang TG and another, Phang Namwan, aged 27, was said to be her mother. DNA checks by the department’s team last year showed the two elephants were related, but previous examinations by the National Elephant Institute in 2014 found they were not. 
Mr Chaiwat on Friday raised the question whether two separate elephants had each been claimed to be the mother, Phang Namwan. The third elephant in question was a nine-year-old male said to be Phlai Koh Phaya Phet. Mr Chaiwat said DNA samples taken from the elephant in 2014 and last year did not match. Mr Chaiwat also asked why Mr Laithongrien had not brought back five elephants he sent to Germany for shows about 10 years ago. The permit for the animals’ trip had been valid for only one year, and Mr Laithongrien resisted the department’s effort to confiscate a 6-million-baht guarantee made for the trip. 
At his press conference on Monday, Mr Laithongrien said he and other club members did not accept past results of the DNA tests. An official conducting the tests in 2014 had appeared to be drunk, and possibly made a mistake with the records. He insisted the three seized elephants had been born at his premises and had not been taken from the wild.