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Thailand: Law enforcement or personal grudge?

Another unbelievable story of abuse of power

Mr Damrong Pidech has finally retired, but that doesn’t mean that all the evil he has done will be over and gone. Here is a story explaining one of his attacks on Edwin, Noi and WFFT that has made it to the prosecutor already and will soon get to court. A ridiculous issue all-together full of intimidation, lies and abuse of power.

Surgery room at WFFT

During the raids on WFFT by the Department of National Parks (DNP) from the 13th till the 24th of February 2012 Mr Damrong attended the raids twice himself. During these two days he was extremely aggressive and verbally abused everyone working or volunteering at WFFT and even insulted and threatened the highly revered abbot of the temple. Once WFFT presented the paperwork for the animals he refused to look at them and said he was only interested in taking the rescued animals away and look for more “illegal issues” to fight WFFT on.

The man in question “found” half a dozen of issues he wanted police to charge us with however as most of these issues were outside his powers he said he would forward the matters and make sure law would be enforced to close down WFFT and any other NGO wanting to help wildlife as “NGO’s are only here to enrich themselves…”

Damrong visited WFFT’s clinic at the center on his first day and said to Edwin “it is ridiculous to have such a high-end hospital at a rescue center, we don’t even have that” and “you have just build this to raise funds, you are not using it at all as it is just a show-case”. We all know of course that this is nonsense, hundreds of rescued animal’s lives have been saved here in the last 5 years since it was build. When Damrong walked in to the surgery room (he refused to change shoes and wear appropriate dress) he shouted out at the media that joined him that he found a price-label on the surgery table and that we had just purchased it to make our clinic “look good” for fundraising! The surgery table was actually purchased in April 2007 and still looked good as we tend to care for donated goods. We do not work with tax-payers money like others do, so we need to show appreciation to our donors and take care as good as we can.

Mr Damrong asked Edwin to call the veterinarian in for a talk, but Edwin refused to do so, knowing that Damrong would verbally attack and threaten the vet. The Thai vet at that time, Dr Ball, was on leave to make sure he could not be intimidated or threatened. WFFT has employed Thai veterinarians over the last few years as is requested by Thai law and was already in the process of getting a hospital permit, but awaiting a much needed x-ray machine to be complete.

As WFFT did only treat rescued wildlife from the center itself and did not treat any animals from outsiders against payment it was never seen necessary to apply for a hospital permit in the past 11 years. Livestock department officials who look after these permits had visited WFFT frequently over the last years and during hard times even asked WFFT to assist with disaster relieve (3 months before the raids we jointly rescued, housed and medically treated thousands of pets during the Central Thailand floods!) As a Thai veterinarian was always available sometimes with help of volunteer vets it all seemed to be working well for the animals and within the lines of law.

Early February 2012 however, before the raids of the DNP, we at WFFT started procedures to apply for a hospital permit. With many new instruments such as a blood check unit, ultra-sound, gas-anesthesia and autoclaves we found that we were up-to-standard enough to register an “official wildlife hospital”. On a first check up after applying we were told to change a few things, but first to apply in writing. On February 8th we filed an official written request, which was processed, a first official visit to inspect the building was set up on the 9th of March. During this visit on March 9th the Livestock department pointed out some details that had to be changed or added to receive the permit.

Points of concern or changes on March 9th:
1. Fire-extinguishers needed to be put in surgery room and treatment room.
2. Emergency lights need to be installed in surgery room and at entrance.
3. A freezer needed to be purchased for the deceased animals.
4. A sign of 60×120 cm needed to be placed in front of entrance with the text “Animal hospital with facilities to keep animal over-night”

Livestock officials asked us to prepare the changes within 14 days and said they would return on March 22nd to photograph all changes and issue an official permit accordingly.

On the 22nd of March a team of 8 inspectors of the Livestock department again visited the WFFT wildlife hospital and found all changes implemented satisfactory and signed off the permit, saying they were happy to see such a spacious, clean and well equipped facility. They left a signed copy of the agreement and said the official permit from Bangkok would be send by mail within days. We received it on the 30th of April.

End good all good…. or not?

On March 23rd (a day after receiving the final check by Livestock officials and a written OK by them) an official of the Department of Livestock from Bangkok entered the wildlife hospital of WFFT without permission and photographed the facility where nobody was present. This man then went to police a month later (!!!) and pressed charges against Noi (Jansaeng Sangnanork) and the foundation for illegally running an animal hospital. How is that possible we ask; how can you gather this “evidence” a day after we were granted the OK to operate a hospital, and why did you then wait to charge with police 3 weeks after we already even received the official permit? When Edwin called the official he told Edwin that he was ordered to do this by Damrong Pidech head of DNP. Is this man also head of the Livestock department??? We don’t think so!

Once we were called in to the police station for questioning on May 2nd we immediately presented the hospital permit and thought all would be over, however police told us that DNP officers frequently called him and said the case had to go to court at any cost. The police inspector of Thamairuak police station told us he was scared he would face trouble if he would not send the case for prosecution, even though he had seen the permits and that “the man that is going against you and WFFT is a close friend of the man in Dubai and plays golf with him frequently, so I cannot take any risks of being moved to a police station in the far South of Thailand” The case was forwarded to the prosecutors office in June.

Discussions with the prosecutor have gone nowhere as well. The provincial prosecutor has told us not to worry about the case in court, but that he is under a lot of pressure to proceed and will face consequences if he does not sue in court. Noi has been summoned to turn herself in on October 26th to be jailed up at court in Petchaburi but will be allowed to file for bail the same day.

WFFT faces more costs of lawyers, bail and a lot of work for a non-issue, we do not have the money to fight on. The personal grudge of one high placed and well connected person (who is under investigation for corruption and encroachment by the counter corruption commission) against a small group of people that are trying to do something good for society and the animals seems to be able to manipulate the laws of Thailand. We for us, have no faith in the legal system any longer. Edwin will revoke his bail on the 26th of October to make it possible for Noi to be bailed out instead.

Nowadays the law is obviously a tool for those in power of politics. Mrs Prime-Minister do you believe this is right?

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