Myanmar rebel group recovers ‘sacred’ elephant tusks stolen from Thai village


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The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), an insurgent group operating in Myanmar along the Thai border, handed over a pair of carved elephant tusks to Thai authorities today, ending a hunt that started on Friday.

The elaborately engraved tusks vanished from a pavilion in a Kayin village in Thailand’s Umphang district on Friday. Leaders of the village suspected a former village head named Baisu Khiridujjinda, who had come to the village and asked to sleep in the pavilion the night before the tusks went missing. They accused him of stealing the tusks and fleeing across the border to Myanmar’s Kayin State.

Within the next couple days, the DKBA located Baisu and the tusks in a newly opened monastery on top of Mount Mulayit in Kayin State, about 80 kilometers from the Thai border. Baisu had reportedly become a hermit and planned to use the sacred tusks to attract disciples, The Nation reported.

A 10-member team led by the chief of Umphang district travelled to the Thai-Myanmar border on Monday to retrieve the tusks from the DKBA. However, the insurgent group did not hand over Baisu, who remains at large in Myanmar.

A source on the Thai recovery team told The Nation that Baisu denied stealing the tusks, saying he had only borrowed them long enough to “perform a ritual” at the mountain-top monastery.

The source also said Baisu’s alleged theft might have had backing from armed groups in Myanmar, since the tusks came from a male elephant named Kwang Phu that was born on Mount Mulayit more than 200 years ago and taken to what is now Thailand by a Kayin mahout.

The stolen tusks are one of two pairs of tusks kept in the village pavilion in Umphang district there that are considered sacred by locals.