Parliamentary hearings on abuse of power and harassment
Parliament, Bangkok – 22 August 2012
On Wednesday 22nd of August a second hearing was held with the Parliamentary Committee on law and human rights in the parliament building in Bangkok Thailand.
On this second meeting the DNP officials were summoned to come to the committee hearing to answer to allegations and questions on abuse of power, selective enforcement, slander and harassment filed by several groups, people and companies, which one of them WFFT. Six DNP officials, including the director-general were present at the hearing, while several members of Parliament hosted the meeting. The meeting was chaired by MP Police General Wiruth president/chairman of the committee and MP Wirat head of the investigation panel sub-committee.
On this day Edwin Wiek and Jansaeng Sangnanork, a few staff members and supporters who were present during the 8-day raid of the DNP at the WFFT wildlife rescue center, represented WFFT. WFFT’s head of the veterinary department Dr Chuthamas (Moh Teui) and Roger Lohanan of the Thai Animal Guardians were also present and addressed the committee on several occasions in support of WFFT.
director-general of DNP
When WFFT and supporters entered the meeting room at parliament Mr Damrong Phidet, director-general of the DNP was clearly upset and said he didn’t know WFFT was coming and said he was not ready to answer any questions. The chairman asked him kindly to listen to the allegations and questions and he would be allowed to answer on a later date.
After the chairman handed over the microphone to Jansaeng (Noi) Sangnanork to start her complaint Noi told the chairman she would rather have Edwin Wiek take the floor as she felt uncomfortable and too stressed to do so herself, she was seated right opposite the director-general and officials that raided the center in February.
The chair allowed Edwin to take the floor; Edwin introduced himself as founder and the WFFT foundation in less then 10 minutes, talked about the 11 years of hard work and achievements; an up to International standard wildlife rescue center, a professional medical team with two veterinarians working from a sterile and top-class facility with all medical appliances needed available. WFFT had taken in wildlife from government rescue centers in the past and handed over wildlife to the DNP for release back to the wild such as fishing cats, gibbons and exotic birds. WFFT also financed and build a complete release center for gibbons in the jungles of Maehongson and provided the gibbon pairs, who had full medical check-ups, DNA analyses and quarantine procedures done by the WFFT. One pair of gibbons was already released by the DNP and several more pairs of these gibbons are awaiting release right now at the conservation site. WFFT also helped during several disasters hand-in-hand with government agencies with the most known ones; the 2004 Tsunami where we helped people and animals directly after the disaster and even rescued and released an injured dolphin as well as the 2011 Central Thailand floods, where over 2500 dogs and cats were evacuated, cared for and sterilized at the WFFT temporary shelter. WFFT also showed that as a Thai organization they have worked abroad in several countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Laos and Vietnam on law enforcement and wildlife rescue, thereby giving Thailand a positive name abroad.
Questions and allegations WFFT would like to see answered
Edwin asked on behalve of the WFFT several questions and allegations for the director-general of the DNP to answer on;
–Why was the WFFT given less than 3 hours to produce the paperwork for all 400+ animals at WFFT?
–Why were allegation made in public by DNP officials that WFFT “bought, sold and tortured wildlife” while never produced any such evidence?
–Why did the director-general told the media that WFFT was a phony foundation, said they encroached on forestland, polluted waterways and made money out of helping animals? Why did he say that he would defrock the highly respected abbot of Kao Look Chang temple for encroaching on forestland? Why did he say that WFFT had millions of baht income every month from “strange” sources? While all of these allegations were found to be untrue over the last 6 months after several investigations by responsible government agencies, we asked him if he did so just to discredit our organization and the people working at and those associated with WFFT?
-Why did the director-general and his staff said that WFFT was receiving illegal donations to fund their work? What is an illegal donation? And can the director-general point out one foundation in Thailand or abroad that does not receive any donations at all?
-Why was WFFT singled out for confiscation of so many rescue animals while in other cases where illegal wildlife traders were caught they were allowed to keep the animals with them, even when they disappeared during the investigation?
Example 1; the Sraburi province case of early March 2012 (300 wild animals such as red panda’s, lions, orangutans, marmosets, macaques, tigers and much more) where nothing was removed and right now almost half of the animals are missing.
Example 2; the case of an illegal zoo in Huahin city where tigers, monkeys, gibbons and crocodiles were found. A complaint with full photo-report was sent to the DNP region 3 office, however three weeks later WFFT received a reply from the director of region 3 wildlife protection Mr Metha the person that had earlier received the complaint that “the zoo has no wild animals and never had any in the past” with 6 pages of photos with empty cages.
Example 3; the case of a Phuket zoo and wildlife dealer where WFFT found 11 orangutans (CITES appendix1!!!) hidden in the back of a zoo. Here too WFFT filed an official report and complaint with photos, but received a reply in writing several weeks later that only empty cages were found, and that there never were any orangutans (reply from Khun Wit, head of wildlife region 5) at this zoo. WFFT here pushed with the help of some very sincere officials in the head-office of the DNP for a re-opening of the case, and a month later the 11 orangutans were “found along the highway” between Phuket and Phang-nga. WFFT questioned the director general why the owners were never charged with illegal possession?
-WFFT further asked why the DNP official entered the premises and houses of the WFFT on for 4 days without any search warrant with over 100 armed officials at a time?
-WFFT asked why local villagers from nearby the center were hired to chase and catch the rescued animals with sticks, at 300 baht per head instead of doing this with qualified and trained DNP staff? Did the director-general know that some of these people are illegal loggers and drug users? Was this unnecessary violence and animal torture set up to upset staff and volunteers and/or to provoke them?
-WFFT asked why staff and volunteers were not allowed to check on the well-being of the animals after confiscation; even when reports came out that some gibbons and monkeys as well as one elephant were found to have died at the hands of the DNP? Why was the promise to be allowed to check on the animals broken by the director-general?
-On Friday the 17th of February the police super-intendant of the Thamariuak police station checked on documents handed over by WFFT on the ownership of animals and found that the claims by WFFT were true that animals were registered properly by WFFT at the Department of National Parks over a period of 7 years, therefor the confiscations were to be stopped. Why did he started the 22nd of February again with taking more animals away from the center anyhow, despite the provided evidence?
-The director-general said on several TV shows he would charge Edwin Wiek with slander for posting videos of DNP staff brutally beating up and chasing animals. How can someone be charged for slander for showing real and genuine footage?
-WFFT asked if the director-general feels he might have been wrong in his assessment and actions, and would be willing to discuss the matter to find a solution that would be good and unharmful for both sides, not the least the wildlife conservation and animal welfare?
Edwin hands over a petition of 60,089 people to the committee!
The reply of the director-general was short, he again stated he only acted after a phone complaint by “a villager” who said he had seen “any animals in cages that might be tortured” and “complained that water pollution by WFFT animals took place” he could not sustain any more claims than that as it was an “anonymous phone-call”. He further said he never did see any documents provided by WFFT supporting claims that animals were indeed registered, even when again presented at the meeting he refused to look in to this. He said he had urgent business and left the meeting to have his staff take over the answering.
The panel that was left over could not answer any more questions and said it will do so on a later meeting.
Mr Roger Lohanan, of the ThaiAGA took the floor and again stated that the case against WFFT was seen as more political then law enforcement, he further asked the DNP to mediate and think about the wellbeing of the animals as in his opinion the DNP was not ready yet to take in so many wildlife and care for them at their facilities and NGO’s such as WFFT were actually helping the DNP taking a load of work off their shoulders. He also questioned personal motives of some officials involved.
A highly respected lady from Bangkok, who we cannot name, also addressed the committee and said she witnessed the confiscations that were violent and unnecessary, stating that she too had witnessed that WFFT was not given any time to produce any paperwork. She told the committee that she had helped the DNP for many years with large donations towards their work in caring for confiscated wildlife, but now would remove the name and signature of the director-general in the thank-you-letters from him, as she could no longer bear to see his name.
Doctor Juthamas, who has been helping and advising WFFT for over 10 years told the committee that she had been harassed and accused of wrongdoing to the Thai veterinary board of Thailand by the director-general of “helping criminals in criminal acts and unethical standards”, She was subsequently called in for questioning and found not guilty, however the whole procedure had given her a bad feeling and a lot of stress. Dr. Juthamas is well known in Thailand for her superb and free-of-charge work helping monkeys in need of help. Dr Juthamas (Toey) was arrested later in the month by DNP officials for illegally helping monkeys in Lopburi. After an outcry in the media and TV she was suddenly found not guilty!
Damrong Phidet denied again that WFFT ever worked with the DNP on any case and even said he never heard of the WFFT and/or Edwin wiek until the date of the raid. Strange if you see the video hereunder which proves him wrong.
With no direct replies on this day the committee will call in all parties for a next round of talks with a request to the DNP to answer on the allegations, however the chairman asked to all parties to find a way to discuss the matter together and find a solution as it was harming WFFT, the DNP and the country as a whole.
WFFT has always followed the law of Thailand and has at all times registered rescued animals with the authorities. Our center has been at all times ready to work with all government agencies and assist wherever possible, and still is ready to help wildlife anytime, everywhere.
We would like to thank all our supporters in Thailand and abroad for the support until now, we hope soon to have good news on the wellbeing of the animals.
Meeting up with 2 ex prime-ministers Chuan Leekpai and Abhisit Veijajiva and ex-finance minister Korn Chatikavanich of Thailand gaining support for better rights for animals and those who protect them.
While the WFFT is hoping for a positive dialogue to stop the harassments and to continue to help wildlife in need of help we are asking for more help around the country for justice.
Chuwit Kamolvisit, MP and leader of “Rak Prathet Thai party” promising to help.