Two days ago, on February 27th I was advised that ENP would be raided again the next day. By the end of the day several threats had been made public. Lek would be arrested, elephants would be confiscated, and volunteers would be harassed. The threats and intimidation are so ridiculous that in another context they would be funny. In reality they are not funny, not at all. Why is this happening? Why is it happening only to Wild life Friends Foundation of Thailand (WFFT) and Elephant Nature Park (ENP)? Could it be because these two organizations are the ONLY two NGO’s that are speaking out against the illegal elephant trade? In Asia the loss of face is very serious and apparently at least one government official has serious face. One source told me that he is telling people that he hates Khun Sangduen and that he wants to destroy her and all of her projects.
Waiting and being told the government would not arrive till after lunch the media asked to interview Lek. At the interview she mostly discussed the past two raids and the government paper stating that the park was in proper order. The proof of the baby elephants was also shown.
On February 28th, there was no “big raid” on ENP. The Director of the DNP chose not to come himself; rather he sent some of his underlings. This was the 3rd time in a month that they had descended on ENP with allegations and threats. The last time they were there they signed a legal document stating that a total inspection had been done and that everything was in order. Still they returned. The threat of the day was that they were going to confiscate three elephants which apparently didn’t have the right papers, or had no papers:
1. 1. Jokia: She is totally blind and relies on her best friend and guide, Mae Perm. She has been at the park for more than 10 years, and now suddenly she is an illegal elephant? To take this elephant would be to kill her! More information about Jokia is at: http://www.elephantnaturefoundation.org/go/elephants/elephant/jokia
2. 2. Medo: She’s the gal with the bad back and broken hips. Again she would not likely survive if she were removed. Medo has been in the park since June of 2007. More information about Medo is at: http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/herd/medo.htm
3. 3. Chang Yim: He was born in the park and is less than three years old. Documentation of his birth, DNA, and many photographs were offered as proof of his origin. Given all the documentation and the fact that by Thai law he’s too young to require registration, it seems the DNP has backed off of their threats to take him. He also has more information posted at: http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/herd/changyim.htm
The government has given ENP 15 days to get the proper paperwork on Jokia and Medo.
The news media came in force to ENP on the 28th. I’m sure they were given instructions to cover the “government’s story” but it was so obvious that they had nothing worth reporting that all the attention turned to Lek and her volunteers. The government people were met at a locked gate by volunteers holding a silent protest, and by the ENP attorney who politely informed them that without the proper warrants they couldn't just barge in and arrest anyone.
|The government officials at the fence|
After a few minutes of talking through the fence, they were invited to come into the camp and meet with Lek. Here I must apologize for incomplete reporting and acknowledge my woeful lack of ability to comprehend spoken Thai. I’m sure that details will be forthcoming. For now the points that I’m certain of are:
1. 1. Lek asked the government for 30 days to get the required papers for Jokia and Medo I don’t know the details but it has to do with tracking down previous owners in other areas of Thailand. The government gave her 15 days and threatens to take Jokia and Medo if the papers are not completed.
2. 2. They made it very clear to her that some people hate her because she stands for people who are trying to do the right thing. This is about taking a strong stand against elephant trafficking.
3. 3. They are threatening to take her land. They will inspect it all for illegal activity. As is being said, if they can’t find one thing they will try to find something else to cause problems.
4. 4. The government also was very interested in why the park has so many Karen. (The plight of the Karen is a totally different story that overlaps). The park has about 255 employees, 75% of which are Karen.
5. 5. When asked about the other camps they say they will inspect with proper procedures. Fact: 16 camps in the area. ENP has been inspected 3 times in a month. None of the others have been visited at all.
6. 6. At least one local official was trying to take Lek’s side. He agreed to take question and explained that all elephants need to have registration papers. He mentioned that there are about 8 elephants with no papers in the park (4 are too young to require papers). In Mae Tang there are about 78 elephants have no paper that’s about 1 out of 4. There is a problem with the law not requiring baby elephants to be registered until they are 8 years old. He likes the idea of having all captive elephants micro-chipped. About 2,000 elephants have been micro-chipped. He likes the idea of a DNA database, the government is talking about it, but nothing has been done yet.
It appears that this battle for the elephants, the exposure of corruption and the retaliation is far from over. What can we do? Let the entire world know what is going on. This responsibility lies with us, the Thai news media will publish what they can but like the American media they receive pressures from the people in power. Just a brief example: A month ago there was an article in the Bangkok post that started all of this fervor. The online version of that article has been edited, according to other journalists with whom I have spoken.
Here is a link to the video that Lek made yesterday afternoon: http://www.youtube.com/user/elephantnews?feature=g-all-u
Here is a link to a list of source stories and documents: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&¬e_id=256085667803867&id=123785434367225
Please remember that the vast majority of Thai people are good people. Most of their government officials are honorable men and women who perform their duties with diligence and loyalty. In their culture we find ourselves often confused and frustrated, but we should never fall into the trap of thinking we know what’s good for them. Better we demonstrate what is good and if it’s something that will enhance their culture they will adopt new ideas, thoughts and behaviors. When I mentioned that I was going to ENP to cover the activities and to be a part of the protest against the malicious retaliation a skeptical friend of mine commented that none of it will do any good. He’s wrong! There is strength in numbers and around the world there is proof that change can be effected by people banding together to speak the truth. Thank you for being a part of this critical step in our evolution!
Abundant Blessings to you all