Under the amendment, the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (NPWCD) will take over the task of regulating domesticated elephants from the Interior Ministry's Department of Provincial Administration. The bill would also tighten control over the ivory trade.
Domesticated elephants now come under the Transport Animals Act which authorises the Interior Ministry to issue ownership certificates for captive elephants.
However, the NPWCD wants the task shifted to the department to better control the shelters (kraals) as wildlife authorities have found many elephants lack certification or have fake documents, indicating they might have been caught in the wild.
The draft law also allows wildlife authorities to confiscate elephants if the owner fails to produce ownership certificates for domesticated elephants and inspect private elephant shelters to make sure they live in decent conditions.
Elephant shelters must also inform wildlife authorities about the number of animals they have and seek permission before moving them elsewhere.
If the owners cannot take care of elephants, they will be transferred to zoos or other animal shelters.
Violators of the law will face 10-year jail terms or a maximum 2-million-baht fine or both.
The NPWCD on Monday organised a public hearing on the draft amendment at a Bangkok hotel where several kraal operators turned up to voice their opposition to the proposed legal change.
Laithongrian Meephan, the owner of the Lae Paniad Elephant Kraal in Ayutthaya, said the bill was drafted without listening to the opinions of kraal operators and mahouts who will be negatively affected by the new regulation.
"The bill is based on the perception the mahouts are wrongdoers. Who is the department to decide who can take care of elephants and who cannot? We know best about domesticated elephants, so we should have the right to take care of them," he said.
Somboon Ruamsri, president of the Thai Elephant Cooperative, said it was not a good idea to have domesticated and wild elephants come under the same law as it would only confuse elephant owners.
He said the current law was good enough to both regulate domestic elephant and protect wild jumbos.
Mr Somboon also doubted if the NPWCD was capable of taking care of elephants seized from private shelters. He cited a recent incident in which a female jumbo seized from a private shelter injured herself and became disabled under the care of wildlife officials.
Surasit Mutusahim, a mahout representative, said if the NPWCD pressed ahead with the change, mahouts and kraal operators will hold a mass rally at Government House early next month.
NPWCD deputy chief Theerapat Prayurasiddhi tried to calm the protesters, saying their opinions would be taken into consideration.
Tuenchai Noochdumrong, director of the NPWCD's Wildlife Conservation Office, said about 300 domesticated elephants which do not have identification certificates are likely to be seized if the legal change comes into effect.
She defended the amendment, saying it would improve protection and conservation of elephants and crack down on the ivory trade in the country.