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Claims of Intimidation from Elephant NGO

The Alliance of Elephant-Lovers in Sweden has requested that the Thai government take action over alleged intimidation of members of the Friends of Elephants Foundation by the Forestry Industry Organisation (FIO).

The alliance informed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Kasem Sanidwong na Ayudhaya of the alleged threats saying that the northern chapter of the FIO had deliberately set fire to a Lampang forest. The fire got out of control and spread to the foundation's nearby elephant sanctuary, panicking the elephants. The organisation refuses to take responsibility, insisting that it was a controlled fire.

"We have learnt the Prime Minister's Office is investigating," foundation secretary-general Sorada Chavala said. "However, since the incident no executives or staff of the FIO have come to discuss [the matter]."

In correspondence with the government the Swedish group is calling for justice.

In a related development, the foundation is also pressing the Forestry Department to investigate an elephant-watching tour at Khao Chon Kai's Pa Salak animal reserve. It is worried the company is smuggling young elephants.

Sorada said the foundation had obtained a tourist's video that showed 30 adult and young elephants at a river. The foundation questions why a commercial venture is operating on reserve land.Tourists pay Bt7,000 a week for the tour as well as accommodation and transport. The tour is promoted on the Internet. Foundation veterinarian Preecha Puangkham is not against such tours but worries about the exploitation of young elephants. Preecha said elephant-smugglers would shoot a mother elephant before taking its young; tese young are then sold abroad for between Bt500,000 and Bt600,00, he added.

Adapted from The Nation, 18th February 2007.
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