It’s a sad day to be an elephant.
Perhaps some people have been keeping up with the story of the five elephants which were murdered in Kaeng Krachan National Park and the somewhat haphazard way the park superiors have handled the situation. There have been incidents of finger pointing and outright lying to the press and police handling the case. Looking back at the story in retrospective, we see there is obviously something fishy which the parks staff are trying to hide, as well as a game of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ going on within the various departments.
14/1/2012: The story starts with a local (not a parks staff) reporting a case of a dead elephant which was burnt by the park staff, to get rid of the carcass. Oddly, during the initial inspection, the tusks and genitals were intact, but when the police inspected it, the tusks and genitals were gone. –Who did it? Well, the local said the parks staff told him to remove the tusks and he refused. –Smart move for a guy who almost fell prey to the blame game.
The Director General of the National Parks Authority transfers all six suspects, including the Kaeng Krachan park chief, deputy and four assistants, to a different post while the investigation is being concluded.
An investigation by police finds that some locals were “threatened” not to tell of the dead jumbos, to the point some villagers feared for their lives and had to be taken to a safe house. A Karen villager (lets blame him!) claimed he was asked by the park authorities to remove the tusks before they burned the bodies and said they were about 50 cm long.
-Again, we ask the same question: what happened to the tusks?
15/1/2012: The next day the police arrest the four assistants, two of which confess to burning the carcass and removing the tusks; the other two deny they were involved, blaming the deputy to the park chief as being the one who took the tusks. The four are charged at a local police station for burning the carcass; they are not charged for poaching.
Later it is revealed that the standard procedure for disposing of a dead elephant is to remove the tusks, store them at the park headquarters as “evidence” and burn the body. –Despite this being “official standard procedure” which is sanctioned by the parks authority, the four men are being accused for doing their job?
Meanwhile, the tusks are still missing and the chiefs’ assistant is also missing, reportedly on an assignment in Thap Laan National Park, somewhere on the way to the Cambodian border …. and we are all totally buying this load of cattle fertilizer ….
17/1/2012: Big boss Mr. Damrong Pidech comes to the rescue and holds a press conference to tell everyone his men didn’t do anything wrong. “They followed procedure in disposing the carcasses. They photographed and documented the cases. The important thing is to find out who killed the elephants and prosecute them!”
-Sounds good but it still doesn’t tell us where the missing ivory went ….
18/1/2012: A few days later the missing assistant chief shows up a the police station, accompanied by his boss (who should get a cookie for helping rein in the wayward lad) and tells the police he “may have forgotten one or two steps” in the basic procedure in disposing of the body. This may be deemed as happenstance, unless you realize that the “step” he forgot was to “call the police”. –Oh, I forgot, he didn’t need to, as the villagers would do that a few days later!
He admitted to removing the tusks and stated that he later felt he should not be taking them with him on his long journey to Thap Laan NP so he left them “with the carcass” and went his merry way. –Let me guess; the office was locked and it was too much trouble to call your assistant to find a key?
As expected, the police return to the site and can’t find any trace of the tusks. “I was SURE I left them right here” states a confused yet happy assistant deputy.
All five men were released on bail (otherwise known in Thailand as “pay your way out of any wrongdoing”.)
20/1/2012: Good news at last for the buffeted Forestry Department when they announce they have saved a young elephant from being smuggled and sold to slavery by local poachers, one of whom was a … drum roll please … Karen! It turns out there is an even more sinister twist to the story: a local politician was involved in the deal.
-So is everyone happy now? –Good! So now that we are focused on this bit of happy news, the parks management has quietly reinstated the six men to their former positions. The police are filing their reports and we will go back to doing what we were doing before the whole incident occurred.
-And yes, the police should find these killers sooner or later. –If they can’t we could find a few Karen that would fit the bill ….
- Do you want my take on this whole story?
Firstly, I believe that the park staff did not kill the elephants. I believe that it was someone else, perhaps local villagers who are upset the jumbos are eating their crops. This happens quite often and just recently, in Kuiburi National Park just a few hundred kilometers south of Kaeng Krachan, locals and park authorities have come to a deal to work together to avoid confrontations between man and beast.
The parks staff, in my opinion, were opportunistic; after seeing that the bodies were still intact, they requested that a villager remove the tusks (instead of them doing it themselves) and they then burnt the bodies as per standard procedure. Meanwhile, the tusks and genitals were most likely sold via the black market as they are valuable and in high demand. A tusk of a local elephant can fetch a goodly sum and Chinese “herbal” medicine shops will pay dearly for the genitals of elephants and tigers.
The income from the sale of these items could have been spread about to a few people within the department, even all the way up to the head honcho himself. Of course, we will never find out the truth behind all this, especially if no one is interested in digging a little harder for it.
It’s not uncommon to find cases of park staff selling off national heritage just to line their pockets. Who can blame a guy who makes close to nothing for doing something as wrong as this, especially if his superiors allow him to do so as long as he gives them a cut?
At the same time, if these are the people we are entrusting with our national heritage and they are out there selling it off to the highest bidder with the excuse of “I need the cash”, doesn’t this attitude make you cringe? -Do they really belong in this line of work?
To hammer the point home, Bangkok Post ran an investigative report which unearths even more shocking evidence surrounding these men, proving that there is more to this case than meets the eye. Of course, no one is guilty until proven by the courts, but unless the case actually makes it to the court, the innocent will continue to suffer while the guilty mask themselves under the feigned cloak of righteousness.