BANGKOK is faced with a jumbo problem. Elephants, about 200 of them, now roam the city's streets, compounding its congestion problems.
Exasperated by the increasing number of incidents involving elephants, including the recent case of one running amok after its drunken owner left it unfed, police are crying enough is enough.
Metropolitan Police Commander Pol Major General Paibul Ariyawat has pledged to use the full brunt of the law against the city's jaunty jumbos and their brazen mahouts as soon as possible.
He has enlisted the help of the army and a non-governmental organisation, Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation (FAEF), in the massive campaign.
Major Gen Paibul warned that mahouts could be jailed up to four years and fined 100,000 baht (RM10,952) if they brought elephants into Bangkok.
“We will not allow these people to torture the animals again. They cannot use the excuse of earning a living,” he said, adding that officers had been told to undertake a census of the urbanised elephants.
The mahouts, who sit on the neck of the giants and goad them on, survive by selling fruit to locals and tourists, who in turn, feed the animals out of sympathy or to pose for pictures.
Mahouts said they came to the city with their animals to escape abject poverty in the north and north-eastern provinces, caused by drought.
FAEF secretary-general Soilaida Salwala, however, dismissed such claims. According to her, the elephants were part of a bigger business.
Apparently the mahouts “lease” the animals from “sponsors” – usually rich businessmen. The monthly rentals are between 10,000 baht (RM1,095) and 15,000 baht (RM1,642) but the returns are good because people in the kingdom generally revere elephants.
Commander Paibul said soldiers would be called in to round up the elephants if the mahouts did not take them out.
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