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Pattaya Daily News

10 March 2008 :: 15:03:04 pm 12003

Rogue Elephant Stomps Woman Outside Pattaya Restaurant

An unfortunate woman from Nakornsritamarat was attacked by a two-year-old elephant while she was feeding it outside a Naklua restaurant on 8 March, 2008, for no apparent reason
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Police Major Saroj Wetgahmah, a Banglamung Police Inspector, was immediately notified of the incident, which occured in front of Jehjook Restaurant in Naklua, Banglamung . When they arrived at the scene, accompanied by a Sawangboriboon Rescue Team, they found Miss Pornuma Pahsookmeung (24) from 184 Moo. 8 Suanluang, Chalermprahkiat, Nakornsritammarat province, lying on the road, unconscious, her face covered in bruises.

She was rushed to the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital and subsequently x-rayed. The attendant doctor reported that she did not have any serious injuries, but she still had to stay in hospital until they could make sure she was safe.

After attacking the victim, the elephant made for the beach, leapt into the sea and swam away from the beach for about 30 meters. A joint police-sea rescue team pursued the elephant and eventually managed to capture the beast.


            Police questioning the mahout, Mr. Yai Jaunla (35) from Surin province, discovered that the two year old male elephant named James had been brought down from Surin to work at Nongnooch Village. It was intended that the elephant should work in tourists shows, but at present there was not enough work for James so Mr. Yai took his elephant on a walkabout to tourist venues to earn money by selling bananas and sugar cane to tourists. Mr. Yai said that normally James was very friendly young elephant and had never previously hurt anybody.

           Police also questioned Mrs. Oraya Pahsookmeung (28), the sister of the victim, who told them that four family members had came to Pattaya on holiday. Apparently, they had eaten lunch at Jehjook Restaurant and as they were preparing to pay the bill, about to leave, the mahout and his elephant approached them with bananas and sugarcane for them to buy and feed James. While her sister was handing the sugarcane to James, the sugarcane bag was accidentally dropped on the ground.


As the victim bent down to pick it up, James suddenly lunged at Miss Pornuma, knocking her down. Then James began stomping her with its right foot until she became unconscious. Mr. Yai, the mahout, was totally unable to control the elephant which, after attacking the victim, ran down to the sea. The entire incident happened in front of many local residents and tourists.

Police will further investigate the mahout and will most likely prosecute him for negligence.

Note from Editor:


Of all the illegal activities that animate the streets of Bangkok – the vendors who hawk pirated DVDs and fake watches, the brothels that call themselves saunas – one stands out more than others.

Elephants are not supposed to saunter down the city’s streets as they do almost every night. For at least two decades the giant grey beasts have plodded through this giant grey city, stopping off at red-light districts and tourist areas where their handlers peddle elephant snacks of sugar cane and bananas to passers-by.

Occasionally the elephants knock off the side-view mirrors from cars or stumble into gutters and cut themselves on sharp objects. The police shrug, politicians periodically order crackdowns and animal lovers despair.

The creation of a Stray Elephant Task Force in 2006 did not keep the elephants off the city streets. Nor did the team of undercover elephant enforcers who periodically cruise through Bangkok on motorcycles scouting for the beasts.

“To be honest, nobody wants to do this job, nobody wants to deal with the elephants,” said Prayote Promsuwon, the head of the Stray Elephant Task Force, which was formed after an elephant handler, fleeing the police, raced his elephant the wrong way down a large Bangkok boulevard, causing traffic chaos.

The police shy away from detaining the elephants’ handlers, also known as mahouts, because they fear they will not be able to control the animals on their own.

“This is a dangerous job,” Prayote said. “An angry elephant can destroy cars and make trouble and then we have responsibility for the damage.” The Government says there are 3837 domesticated elephants in Thailand. Only a tiny fraction come into Bangkok, usually no more than half a dozen each evening, but they are hard to miss. Many Thais say they serve as a daily reminder of the inequalities in Thailand, the gap between provincial poverty and urban wealth.

Mahouts bring their elephants into the city for the same reasons that the sons and daughters of rice farmers try their luck as waiters, golf caddies and massage therapists in Bangkok: they need the money.

But to critics, elephants in the city highlight the persistent impunity of lawbreakers in Thailand, a country with no shortage of rules but gaping lapses in enforcement. Thailand has eight distinct laws that can be used to arrest mahouts who bring elephants into the city, rules ranging from moving violations to wildlife protection, public health and urban tidiness.

We’ve been fined many times,” said Nattawut Inthong, 24, a mahout who travels around Bangkok with his two-year-old elephant, Gra-po. Nattawut treats the fine of 300 baht (about $10) like a business expense: he pays it and moves on. Most evenings he parades Gra-po through the Nana red-light district, a warren of go-go bars in Bangkok’s bustling Sukhumvit neighbourhood. The elephant adds to the carnival-like atmosphere of thumping music, hawkers dressed in hill-tribe costumes and bar girls twirling around poles in bathing suits.

Nattawut makes about 2000 baht a day selling sugar cane to passers-by, good money in a country where a typical factory wage is 8000 baht a month.
When the night life quietens down, Nattawut leads his elephant by the ear to an abandoned lot on the outskirts of the city where he and the animal sleep.

Bangkok has many animal problems, among them snakes that occasionally cause panic when they slither into homes and the city’s ubiquitous and mangy stray dogs, which have been known to bite pedestrians.

But elephants stand apart because for centuries they have been considered noble beasts, collected by kings and used in preindustrial times as the tanks of the battlefield. Like pandas for China, they were also tools of diplomacy. In the 19th century King Mongkut offered a few pairs of elephants to the American government, thinking it might help cement a budding friendship between the two countries.

(Abraham Lincoln, president at the time, replied that the United States might not have a favourable climate for the animals: “Our political jurisdiction,” Lincoln wrote, “does not reach a latitude so low as to favour the multiplication of the elephant.”)

Before motor vehicles took over, elephants were the taxis of the rich and the workhorses of rural Thailand, especially prized for their help in clearing thick swaths of jungle. It was not until the late 1980s, when the government banned logging to save its dwindling forests, that hundreds of elephants found themselves unemployed.

Some elephants found jobs in the tourism industry, lending their backs to jungle trekkers and amusing visitors with their ability to paint or even play in an “elephant orchestra”. For others, the unemployment line led to Bangkok.

Eight years ago, former prime minister Anand Panyarachun lamented that when Thais see elephants walking down the streets in Bangkok, “we are not only sorry for the elephant but we’re also ashamed of ourselves”.

“The elephant was a symbol of honour, of dignity and leadership,” he said, “but today it has become the symbol of the failures and injustices of Thailand’s development”.

Since Anand made that comment the government has experimented, unsuccessfully, with two projects to confine the elephants to Thailand’s rural hinterland.

In 2002, elephants and their mahouts were offered jobs as scouts in national parks. The project failed because it was underfinanced and the elephants and their trainers were lonely, said Kritapon Sala-ngam, secretary of the Thai Elephant Association, a nonprofitmaking group. In 2006, the government started the “Bring Elephants Home” project, offering to pay mahouts 8000 baht a month if they agreed to live in a specially designated area in Surin, a province about 400 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.

However, there is a shortage of water and tall grass – the staple of the elephants’ diet – in the area. The project started with 181 elephants but is now down to 64, Kritapon said.

Surin province is home to 1005, or about one-quarter, of Thailand’s domesticated elephants.
Their mahouts are generally Gouay people, a small ethnic group that speaks a language distantly related to Khmer and that for centuries specialised in the art of capturing wild elephants from the jungle.

Weerasak Pintawong, the chief veterinarian at the National Institute of Elephant Research and Health Services in Surin, said the concentration of elephants was a big problem.

“There are too many elephants in Surin, and there’s not enough money,” he said.
Weerasak, who treats wounded and sick elephants from around the country, said it was common for elephants to be injured by cars. Often, he said, young elephants would bump into parked vehicles and bruise themselves.
“Sometimes they fall into a hole. Sometimes the elephant is frustrated at being commanded too much, and it runs away,” Weerasak said. Yet unlike the romantic notion held by many city people toward elephants, Weerasak and others who train the animals have a more practical view. They offer a note of caution for the drunken tourists who enjoy patting the elephants on the backside and the Thai bar girls who duck under elephants’ bellies in the belief it brings good luck.

Elephants are powerful, restless creatures prone to rebellion, he said.
The single most appropriate word for them is “fierce”.

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Source: The Sun-Herald
February 17, 2008

Reporter : Kampee   Photo : Kampee   Category : Crime News

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