Mahouts urge jumbo reform body

As the National Council for Peace and Order is gearing up for national reform, another call is being made for it to add a very big reform target – an “elephant reform”.

A group of mahouts and elephant camp owners agreed to ask the NCPO to re-organise management of domesticated elephants. The issue of legal possession of the jumbos has long put them in conflict with authorities.

They are preparing to petition the military to set up a national commission on elephant affairs to solve the problems, which, in their view, officials alone cannot solve.

The new commission must include representatives of elephant owners, Itthiphan Khaolamai, an elephant camp manager in Ayutthaya, said of the group’s initiative yesterday.

Among the problems is interior ministry officials’ alleged lack of understanding in issuing elephants' identification documents. Villagers claim some officials cannot differentiate between wild and domesticated elephants. As a result, 56 elephants have been seized from villagers by officials from the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, he said.

The park officials reasoned the villagers did not have the documents to prove ownership of the domesticated elephants.

While the law demands these legal documents, Mr Itthiphan said the villagers who bought or received the pachyderms as heritage items could verify the animals are domesticated and some have raised them since birth.

The officials should have considered other evidence before deciding whether or not the villagers were wrong.

It is this fairness that the villagers want, but it has so far gained little attention from the officials who exercise one-sided authority, he said.

Many villagers whose elephants were taken worry about the animals’ condition, following reports that two female elephants died in the care of park officials.

Without elephants, the villagers find it difficult to make a living. Some have spent more than one million baht to buy each elephant but cannot use them to earn money and settle their debts, Mr Itthiphan said.

The NCPO’s help is needed to “return happiness to mahouts,” he said.

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