Melee over wildlife issue gathers steam
(under the article Edwin replies to the untruths and accusations)
UPDATE: My reply printed in the Bangkok post on Friday 23-03-2012 http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/285571/wildlife-foundation-head-sets-the-record-straight
The National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department yesterday threatened to sue a wildlife foundation’s founder over alleged defamatory remarks after he accused agency staff of failing to take proper care of wild animals it had confiscated.
Theerapat Prayurasidhi, the department’s deputy director-general, said the department considered comments against the department by Edwin Wiek, founder of the Wildlife Friends Foundation, “aggressive”. He made the comments to international media outlets, on his own website and in videos posted on YouTube.
Mr Wiek was dissatisfied with department officials who last month raided his foundation in Phetchaburi’s Tha Yang district and confiscated 99 animals, including smooth-coated otters, white handed gibbons and great hornbills among others. The raid was in reaction to public complaints that the foundation did not have a licence to keep the wild animals.
“If he does not stop making comments [against department officials], we will sue him,” Mr Theerapat said. “He has falsely accused us. We have never treated those confiscated animals badly. They are still in good health.” Prosecutors have already indicted Mr Wiek’s wife for illegally possessing the wild animals while Mr Wiek has yet to face charges.
Mr Wiek submitted a letter to the British and Netherlands embassies, telling them that the department had treated the confiscated animals poorly. He also posted video footage on YouTube, showing frightened gibbons being removed from their cages and a monkey falling into a pond as Forestry Department staff members tried to capture it.
Mr Theerapat said the animals were thrown into a panic as the foundation’s staff tried to stop the forestry agents from removing them. “He is using the camp as a private zoo to get donations to feed his business,” Mr Theerapat said. Mr Wiek said he has done nothing wrong.
The article in the Bangkok post today “Melee over wildlife issue gathers steam” is highly questionable. I wonder why the author interviewed me for 20 minutes by phone yesterday, only to end the article with one sentence “Mr Wiek said he has done nothing wrong” after first summing up untruths and unfounded accusations from one side.
The melee started after staff at Lampang province leaked information that one confiscated elephant had died who was under the care of the DNP, this elephant was taken by the DNP from an elephant camp in Kanchanaburi a few weeks ago. Besides this there is great concern about the fate of 99 other animals taken from the WFFT wildlife rescue center in Petchaburi after news came out that at least two gibbons died that were forcibly taken to a breeding center of the DNP in Ratchaburi. Staff and management of WFFT as well as the Thai Animal Guardians Association and a Bangkok based support group have asked to get permission to see the condition of all the wildlife and elephants from others locations to assure proper animal welfare standards are in place. This request has been unanswered for over 3 weeks. If the DNP states that all animals are well, why can’t staff or media be allowed access to the animals at all? Why did the death of the elephant stay secret and why is this not mentioned at all in the article?
The articles written by me over the last weeks have not been aggressive, but straight to the point and factual. If someone cannot deal with the truth that is one thing but calling it aggressive is not the correct description. The WFFT has over the last 7 years registered all animals with the local DNP office according to the law, and on the 27th of February all evidence was handed over to the DNP staff including a request to immediately return 16 animals that were born at the WFFT rescue center in 2006. Now, more then three weeks later we have received no reply at all on this issue.
The legal case is still with the local police as the DNP is not replying to a request by the police investigator to go through legal paperwork and acknowledge the request to return the first batch of animals. At no time at all was any prosecutor part of any discussion or investigation, Khun Jansaeng Sangnanork has not yet been indicted at all, or any time to date.
I, Edwin Wiek, have never sent any letter to the Dutch, British or any other embassy at all. Asking for help from a foreign embassy in Thailand would make no legal sense at all. I have been called by a number of concerned embassies, asking for more information, however mainly about the illegal trade in elephants and the organized crime behind it. If any other people, supporters of WFFT or not, have send letters to the embassies I am not aware of it, nor could I prevent this from happening.
The posts on Facebook and YouTube have been uploaded by animal lovers worldwide, while by now almost 110,000 people have watched the clip on YouTube. At the same time an online petition to ask for justice and the return of the rescued animals has been signed by 58,000 people in Thailand and worldwide.
When Mr Theerapat mentions defamation in the article I wonder how he would classify his last remark “he is using the camp as a private zoo to get donations to feed his business”?
The WFFT is a legally registered foundation under Thai law and employs 30 Thai staff members, feeds over 400 animals including 6 elephants, a tiger and over 20 bears. The center is built on 24 hectares of land partly owned by a temple and partly owned by the foundation itself. The day-to-day bookkeeping and yearly financial report is properly maintained as required by law. The WFFT wildlife rescue center is seen by international government and non-governmental organizations as one of the best of its kind, with fully equipped medical facilities and holding facilities built to international standards. (Ref. links hereunder) A private zoo is closed to the public while the WFFT wildlife rescue center is accessible for free, for educational purpose.
The WFFT does receive voluntary donations by people and organizations worldwide, just enough to support its work; we do not receive any government funding or taxpayers money. WFFT is a non-profit organization, and has been for the last 11 years.
C.I.T.E.S. reference on wildlife rescue center worldwide and in Thailand
Online petition for animals at WFFT (58,000 signed)
YouTube video clip on monkey abuse (107,000 viewers)
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Video clip on rescue centers of DNP (selling animals to get money to feed)
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YouTube Channel of Edwin Wiek