Save Burma

အာဏာရွင္စနစ္ က်ဆံုးမွ တတိုင္းျပည္လံုး စစ္မွန္တဲ့ ဒီမိုကေရစီကို ခံစားရမယ္

Posts Tagged ‘Landmine

World focus on Burma (11 December 2008)

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Daw Aung San Suu Kyi disallowed meeting lawyer, India –
by Nem Davies New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese military junta has refused a request by opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, …

Thailand reverts to old-style politics
BBC News, UK –
This constitution was the first to enshrine protection of human rights and freedom of expression. It created a number of independent bodies that were given …

Ali Alatas: In Memoriam
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… though working against very difficult odds until the end of the Suharto era; to try to sustain external pressure against the Burmese military regime’s …

Obama urged to back UN LGBT rights statement
MWC News, Canada –
“The US government often berates Zimbabwe, Burma and Sudan over their human rights violations. These condemnations will ring hollow if the US refuses to …

A daughter’s undying hope for her detained father, India –
“We have lost our human rights in Burma. Even after graduation, it was not possible to work in government departments. Also, nobody was willing to give me a …

MYANMAR-THAILAND: Child trafficking continues, but not fuelled by …, NY –
MAE SOT, 11 December 2008 (IRIN) – When Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May, leaving close to 140000 people dead or missing, aid workers feared an increase in …

Nobel Laureates speak out for Suu Kyi
The Age, Australia –
Nobel peace laureates opened a summit in Paris on Thursday to draw world attention to the plight of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, but former Soviet leader …

RIGHTS-BURMA: Junta Turns Blind Eye to Rising Landmine Casualties
Inter Press Service, Italy –
A similar cloak of secrecy confronted researchers trying to get casualty figures from ethnic rebel groups in Burma, or Myanmar, who also use the …

More companies ignore sanctions on Burma: BCUK, India –
“To those that claim investment aids the people of Burma, the evidence shows the opposite is true. As investment has increased, the human rights situation …

Suu Kyi Denied Meeting with Her Lawyer
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –

… the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ( Photo: AP) “According to the correct procedure, I sent a written request to the Special Branch of Burma’s …

Is UWSA Preparing for Clash with Junta?
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
… near the Thai-Burmese border since the beginning of December, as Burma’s ruling junta steps up its efforts to force the former rebel army to disarm. …

George Bush: “In countries like Belarus fervent pleas for freedom …
Charter 97, Belarus –
President of the United States mentions Belarus as a country where human rights and freedoms are violated in the proclamation on Human Rights Day. …

Junta Demand for Higher Rice Production Derided
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
“Although Myanmar’s [Burma’s] rice production has increased, it can be found that she has not been capable of producing more rice than the nations that are …

Unhappy Human Rights Day in Burma
United Press International, Asia, Hong Kong –
… accused of plotting bomb attacks after he spoke out on the need for more emergency relief in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which hit the country in May. …

Former Indonesian minister dies
BBC News, UK –
… and he also worked as a UN special envoy to Burma, calling for the release of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. …

Junta Has Crushed Peaceful Dissent: Laura Bush
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
Bush said all these female dissidents were following in the footsteps of Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s only detained Nobel Peace Prize winner. …

MYANMAR: Anyo, “I don’t know whether I will live or die”, NY –
Burmese people are honourable people, but this is the only way I can earn some decent money. “Now I receive about 300000 kyat [US$240] per month. …

Indonesian ex-FM Ali Alatas dies
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia –
Mr McMullan said the fact that many non-democracies, such as Burma, China and Vietnam had shown up was a positive sign. “What is welcome about this is that …

You Are Powerful: the promise of the Universal Declaration of …, United Kingdom –
Strikingly put together by superimposing actors onto real footage of human rights abuses (the film makers had the unenviable task of wading through hours of …

Sixty Years On, ‘Inalienable Human Rights’ Still out of Reach for Many
The Epoch Times, NY –
Amnesty International Vancouver focused on human rights abuses in Burma, Tibet, Ethiopia and China, while the Falun Gong raised awareness about the …

Uncertainty Surrounds Asean Summit
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
Burma’s Asean chairmanship was cancelled in 2006 because of the political crisis in the military-ruled country. The political turmoil in Thailand has …

New book on the struggle ‘more questions than answers’
Shan Herald Agency for News, Thailand –
… told fellow exile journalists, most of whom had been ex-rebels fighting against Burma’s ruling military junta like himself, that his book Far from Home: …

Ta-ta to the age of virtue, Canada –
Gareth Evans, a human rights advocate and former Australian foreign minister, started the proceedings with a five-minute speech. …

The council has hardly challenged the worse abusers, such as China and Burma, and Iran and Uzbekistan have escaped sanctions, says RSF. …

IFEX, Canada –
ARTICLE 19 likened the ban to the tactics used by the Burmese military junta. “The lifting of the ban for one day only was yet another cruel twist in the …

Vietnamese Inquisition: Catholic protesters face a show trial as ...
TTX Công Giáo Việt Nam, Vietnam –
Pro-democracy leader in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, has pleaded with tourists not to visit her country, as it merely endows the Than Shwe junta with legitimacy …

US to provide $5 million more for Myanmar relief aid
Reuters –
… leave the White House, Bush pledged she would keep pushing for democratic reforms in Myanmar, previously known as Burma, after leaving Washington. …

Beatings, Protests, Arrests Mark 60th Annual Human Rights Day
Malaysia Today, Malaysia –
10th December 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. To commemorate the day, activists around the world have staged protests …

Burma-Thailand elephant smuggling accusation, UK –
Asian elephants are being smuggled from Myanmar into neighbouring Thailand for “elephant trekking” tourism, a new report by the wildlife trade monitoring …

Nearly one-fifth of coral reefs lost and more threatened
Irish Times, Ireland –
They included Cyclone Nargis, which hit Burma last May, claiming 84500 lives. Mr Loster said extreme weather events accounted for nine out of every 10 …

Bush talks with international bloggers
CNET News, CA –
… he also advocates using the Internet to facilitate democracy. President Bush, in recognition of Human Rights Day, met with bloggers from Belarus, Burma, …

UN appeals for funds to meet health needs in cyclone-battered Myanmar
UN News Centre –
10 December 2008 – The United Nations has called for funding to help meet health needs in areas of Myanmar that are rebuilding after this May’s devastating …

UN appeals for funds to meet health needs in cyclone-battered Myanmar
UN News Centre –
… in areas of Myanmar that are rebuilding after this May’s devastating Cyclone Nargis which claimed some 140000 lives and left 800000 others homeless. …

UN in Myanmar focuses on Dignity for Women
ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
(Yangon: 10 December 2008): The United Nations in Myanmar and partners have joined its colleagues around the world in marking the annual global campaign ’16 …

First Lady Campaigns For Human Rights
Mrs. Bush says she will continue to fight for human rights after leaving the White House, especially for women in Afghanistan and Myanmar, also known as Burma.

… where the US-backed government is fighting Taliban militants, and Myanmar, also known as Burma, where harsh treatment of dissidents has earned worldwide …

Laura Bush in NYC discusses human rights
Houston Chronicle, United States –
The women of Burma have responded to this brutality with inspiring courage.” Bush said she would remain involved in struggles in Afghanistan and Myanmar …

RIGHTS: Politics Still Reign Over Principles at UN
Inter Press Service, Italy –
… France and Britain have continued to protect Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan while Russia and China continue to shield Zimbabwe, Sudan and Burma (Myanmar) …

Human Face : ‘Droits de l’homme’: best-kept secret / Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Philippines –
Even Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi came out bigger than life on the video screen to deliver her message. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and France’s President …

Big task to tackle at Bali forum
The Canberra Times, Australia –
In the name of inclusiveness, the forum includes some of Asia’s most repressive regimes, including Burma, China and Vietnam. At the same time, …

UN must be tough on Burma’s dictators
OpEdNews, PA –
… should make good on the Security Council’s call in Oct. 2007 for Burma to release the prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. …

RIGHTS: Politics Still Reign Over Principles at UN
Inter Press Service, Italy –
… Iraq and Afghanistan while Russia and China continue to shield Zimbabwe, Sudan and Burma (Myanmar) against any strictures or sanctions for human rights …

US, world influence over Mugabe limited
Christian Science Monitor, MA –
Singling out the cases of Zimbabwe and Burma (Myanmar), Ms. Rice said the world remains unable to mobilize “international will” to take on tyrants. …

WWF: Border Guard Funds World Cup Soccer Trips Through Elephant …
MarketWatch –
The border official in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, openly shared details with TRAFFIC investigators on his role in moving live elephants across the …

Couple’s efforts take photography to whole new level
Nova News Now, Canada – 7
The classes were linked to a free clinic called Mae Tao that treats thousands of refugees from Burma each year for malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, landmine injuries …

Fact Sheet: Promoting Human Rights Worldwide (press release), DC –
She discussed efforts by the United States to help women in Afghanistan and Burma overcome oppression to secure basic rights. The Administration has helped …

Laura Bush promises to continue work on human rights
Boston Herald, United States –
… from the audience, said she was particularly concerned about promoting the rights of women in Afghanistan and Myanmar, previously known as Burma. …

Taking Responsibility
Campus Progress, DC –
But when I deny my role in global issues such as human rights violations and climate change, I am shirking my social responsibility—and this is …

Laura Bush in NYC to discuss human rights
Newsday, NY –
NEW YORK – First lady Laura Bush is visiting New York City and will give a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations. The first lady is discussing human …

After Pax Americana?
The Guatemala Times, Guatemala –
The evidence of this will be seen not only in global institutions but also in places like Darfur, Zimbabwe, and Burma. Until this happens, let us all hope …

Burma accused of elephant smuggling
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia –
Burma is at the centre of an illegal trade in elephants and ivory, with more than 250 live animals smuggled out of the country in the past decade, …

India, Burma to change transaction currency to Euro or Singapore …, India –
… a Burmese Trade Union official said. An official at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) said, the two countries …

UN calls for more support to the health sector in Myanmar
ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
Disease outbreaks and malnutrition have been averted through the establishment, in conjunction with the Myanmar Ministry of Health, …

CIA Drug Trafficking and remembering Gary Webb
Capitol Hill Blue, VA –
{3} The Nationalist Chinese army, organized by the CIA to wage war against Communist China, became the opium barons of The Golden Triangle (parts of Burma, …

Russian business presence becoming stronger in Burma, India –
by Moe Thu Rangoon (Mizzima) – With several Russian firms directly investing or having businesses interests in Burma and with the closer cooperation between …

Bush to Meet Activists, Bloggers to Mark Human Rights Day
Voice of America –
… meet with an activist from Sudan’s troubled Darfur region and bloggers from China, Burma, Egypt and other countries Wednesday to mark Human Rights Day. …

Interview With Michele Kelemen of NPR
US Department of State, DC –
And I wonder if you think some of this made it more difficult for you as the Secretary of State to talk about human rights. SECRETARY RICE: No, of course …

Elephant nation: Saving the big grays

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Elephant nation: Saving the big grays

‘Asia hero’ says rescue work ‘makes my heart smile’

Posted: September 26, 2008
8:01 pm Eastern

By Anthony C. LoBaido
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

Editor’s Note: This past summer, Anthony C. LoBaido spent nine weeks documenting and photographing the horrific plight of abused elephants in both Thailand and Sri Lanka.

“I can’t remember anything that happened before two weeks ago.” – Jason Bourne

“Lucky you.” – Marie Kruetz

– from “The Bourne Identity”

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – They say an elephant never forgets. But those majestic creatures who are the national symbol of Thailand may be forgiven for perhaps wishing they could forget the abuse, injury and death they’ve suffered in a society where their elephant birth certificates often amount to death sentences.

Their fate includes encounters with land mines that leave them with feet blown off, torture from hooks, spears and knives in the hands of humans, chain-saw attacks by ivory hunters, spine damage from trekking platforms and even drug abuse.

Yet as the morning mist rises over the lush river valley in this slice of heaven otherwise known as the “Elephant Nature Park,” a herd of formerly tortured and abused but surviving animals is making tracks to the Mae Tang River, its pristine waters flowing silently under a sky turned purple and orange by the rising sun.

They enter the water, one by one, males, aunties and babies alike. There’s Max, a giant 13-foot-tall elephant (said to be the second tallest elephant in all of Thailand) whose legs were broken by an 18-wheel truck during the homeless phase of his life. B.K. has only one tusk. After being drugged and chained to a tree, ivory poachers took a chainsaw to his right rusk; B.K. awakened and chased away the men before they could cut off the other tusk.

Jokari had both her eyes stabbed and shot out, because after giving birth to a baby the baby rolled down a hill and died, and Jokari refused to continue working.

One by one, the elephants enter the water, submerge, and soon reappear. They shake their ears emphatically and spray water from their long, sensitive trunks. “Doot-doo-da-doot!” they trumpet, seemingly in unison. It is an exhilarating scene.

Elephants swimming in the Mae Tang River at Lek Chailert’s Elephant Nature Park

Before long the “elis” are engaging in friendly trunk pulls and jumping in happy playfulness.

Standing on the shore of the river and taking in this wildly maverick, idyllic spectacle is the guardian angel of Thailand’s elephants. Her jet black hair falls over her slender shoulders as she smiles her electrifying smile by flashing bright white teeth.

Her name is “Lek,” which means “small” in the Thai language. At 5-feet, 2-inches, it would be easy to dismiss Lek Chailert, instead of recognizing her status as one of the most heroic people (man or woman) on planet Earth.

In fact, she’s a woman that Paul McCartney, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Meg Ryan all have sought out regarding her work with Thailand’s abused elephants. She’s been featured on CNN, Animal Planet, The Discovery Channel, Time Magazine (selected as one of “Asia’s Heroes”) as well as National Geographic. Yet since this remarkable Thai remains a kind and humble woman; she would never tell you any of those things outright.

But she shares with WND the story of how she came to be the savior of Thailand’s elephants. It is a fairy tale about a little girl who was given an elephant at age five that also includes the dark side of murder, abandonment, slander, a courtroom showdown and physical assaults with fists and guns.

The last chapter is yet to be written, but for now, it has culminated in her becoming the human voice for Thailand’s elephants.

The jungle girl

“It was long ago … I was just a little girl, about five years old, when my grandfather, who was a shaman in a small village in Northern Thailand, saved a man’s life. Because of this deed my grandfather was given an elephant which he in turn gave to me,” Chailert told WND.

“I named the elephant ‘Goldie.’ When I first met her I found this creature to be truly amazing. She looked so kind and so gentle. We become friends at our very first meeting. I loved my new elephant so much and rode her everywhere I went in the jungle. We used to play games with Goldie like ‘Climb the Mountain.’ Many of the children in our little village (nestled between Thailand and Burma) would climb up Goldie’s trunk, tail and ears. Another time we found a toy gun, and my brother and I would play ‘Army’ with Goldie. We’d pretend to shoot her. Then I would say ‘Goldie, we shot you but you are still standing up!’ So she would dutifully obey and lay down as if to say, ‘Oh look … I just died!’ Then she would get up again. This would go on and on, 50 times in a row or even more.”

Theories about elephants were jolted in 2002 when researchers documented that elephants emit subsonic trunk calls at 30 Hz which can travel up to 10 miles or more. Elephants also have another natural Internet via the sensitive nerve endings on their feet. By stamping on the ground they can send and pick up messages. This is probably why so many elephants headed for high ground right before the 2004 Asian tsunami. When elephants are sending out their subsonic trunk calls, if you look closely (or even touch) you can see a small section of their frontal brain area moving under their two-inch thick skin.

The gentle giant Max was homeless for a time and has recovered from being run over by an 18-wheel truck

“As I grew up I continued to become closer to Goldie. My mother told us there was gold (like gold bullion) inside of the elephant, and my brother actually tried to climb inside Goldie to find it. One day, he was halfway inside Goldie’s mouth when my mother ran outside and saw this – shouting ‘No!'” Chailert related.

“I was also becoming closer to many of the animals in the jungle. I would find injured animals and bring them home to care for them. I would often fight with my father about this … he was a hunter you see.

“That’s one thing I have to thank my family for … they gave me the chance to love and care to the other animals. When I was young my grandfather rescued many wild animals caught in traps. He would heal them. He would also let me to help him and taught me how to take care of those animals. He called me the ‘Little Doctor,’ and I was so proud with that title. I fell in love with all the animals I treated and made sure they were safe and eventually returned back to jungle. My mother also supported me in loving the animals by educating me and allowing me to have pets when I was young.”

She said her favorite trait among elephants is “the way they love and care for each other.”

Lek hit her teen years and she started traveling to the Burma border in order to help sick, abused and injured elephants.

Her life’s calling was emerging, and while she was still looking through a glass darkly, there came an irresistible calling of love, sacrifice and service for the elephants.

“At first I went to the border of Burma with a Christian missionary … then I started to go on my own. When I was in high school I wasn’t really much of a student. My teachers would tell me to open my backpack in order to see my books, but inside there were no books, only magazines, film and cosmetics. You see, I used to sell those items on the street in order to get money to buy medicine for the elephants on the Thai-Burma border. They were sick and injured and no one was there to help them. When I visited them I saw the eyes of the elephants, which were dead eyes. And I was heartbroken,” she said.

“As time passed, my backpack got bigger and bigger as I sold more things in order to buy more medicine for the elephants. They had become my life’s passion. I had antibiotics with me and learned all I could about medicine for the elephants.

“I would rent a Jeep and go where no other veterinarian would go. There were no more roads. One time, 100 people actually built a section of road for me so I could turn my Jeep around. For 13 kilometers (more than six miles) they pulled my Jeep through the mud with a strong rope,” she said.

Later she attended the university and studied library science, because officials wouldn’t allow her in veterinary classes.

Years in the wilderness

But her love for elephants was now growing, and her trials were beginning.

“There was a man staging Thai boxing matches in Chiang Mai, featuring a baby elephant with boxing gloves on. When he went around the city to ask for money with the baby elephant, I followed him with a sign reading ‘Don’t support this kind of elephant abuse.’ Eventually the man punched me right in the face. I was badly injured and my face was mangled. I had to wear a neck brace. I was sent to the hospital and had a head scan. I saw stars. There was pus and a terrible infection. I thought I would die. The man who did this to me was fined 500 Baht. (About $3),” she said.

She had crossed over from being an eccentric, enthusiastic youth to become a dues payer en route to a respected world-class activist on behalf of elephants.

“I love them,” she said. “I will never turn my back on them until the day I die”

Landmines are a major problems for elephants in both Burma and Thailand

Elephants don’t abandon their children. They don’t “trade up.” They mate for life. They don’t abuse. They have served as tanks and armored personnel carriers and to this day remain bulldozers.

Her fame soon spread. Organizations began paying attention to her warnings about Thailand’s elephant abuse. And opposition arose.

She’s had a gun held to her head, she was called “traitor” by Thailand’s government, the “Bangkok Post” printed accusations against her, she lost family and friends and her life was threatened.

In fact, it was during this time she was forced to run from house to house, eluding the shadowy assassins dispatched to hunt her down and kill her.

Amazingly, the Princess of Thailand, Rangsoi Napadol Yukol, interceded for Lek.

“The princess contacted me and said, ‘Lek they will kill you. You have to come and live with me in the Royal Palace … no one will be able to hurt you here.’ (Thailand’s current king is probably the most popular sovereign in modern world. His collection of perfect white elephants is considered an ancient symbol of the king’s divine right to rule). She also told me, ‘Lek, you are a train with no brake – a kamikaze.’ The princess found a lawyer for me. And people gave me some money, $100 or $200 or $300 at a time.”

But Lek couldn’t stay locked up on the royal palace forever. She had to leave if she was going to help the elephants. So she left, heading directly to the streets where elephants needed her.

“People would spit on my family … restaurants would not serve them. They told my little eight-year-old nephew that they would ‘bury’ me. My brother cried. I had to adopt an alias. (Sirinya Chaidee). People felt I was hurting Thailand as a boycott of tourism was being organized because of the revelations of the elephant abuse. I was so scared. I cried and cried. But then I thought of Mel Gibson in that movie ‘Braveheart’ and Russell Crowe in ‘Gladiator.’ People can in fact change history and I felt that I would come back and achieve victory for the elephants. I thought, ‘I can take this abuse! I must fight for the elephants!'”

She withstood attacks in the form of a special television episode about her, offers from politicians for payments for her to shut up, and the hint of treason for her work.

“One day I sat down along Pat Pong Road … I looked around at the filth and I thought, ‘Why don’t [Thailand’s elites] clean up this country?’ I thought, ‘I am a thorn under their feet … this country can change and I won’t give up. I am a strong Buddhist. I will not kill or steal or have an affair. I will not lie. The Buddha had a passion for animals and never wanted them to be sacrificed!'”

Her battles eventually took her into court.

The rescued elephants have become like family members to workers at the park

“Karen hill tribes wearing no shoes came to the biggest courthouse in Bangkok in order to testify on my behalf. They explained the cruel way in which the elephants were treated. It was the first time anything like this had happened – people coming barefoot into the court. I mean, they came all the way from the Burma border on the train … just for me. They helped me to take on Thailand’s mass media in court and win. I was able to clear my name,” she said.

Still, opposition remained. “Only the Princess of Thailand stood up to say, ‘This woman is speaking the truth.’ In the mass media, some in my family denounced me as a ‘Black Sheep.’ Lies were spread that the abuse of the elephants was happening in Burma, and not in Thailand,” she said.

At Lek’s trial, the Karen tribal members testified about the methods they use to train and control the elephants and where this “abuse” was taking place – inside the borders of Thailand. (Logging was made illegal in Thailand during the late 1980’s. Yet land mines, drug wars and the physical stress of tourist-based elephant trekking continued to devastate the elephants in the region at large).

It was after this trial that Lek and Thailand’s elephant began to turn the corner. A Texan who supplied coffee beans to Starbucks heard about Lek’s work with the elephants, and he donated the land which would become her Elephant Nature Park without condition. Now the framework was in place for a safe haven for the 4,500 elephants left in the nation, down from the 100,000 as of 1900.

We don’t need a baby elephant with two dead parents

But perhaps because of her growing successes, the attacks continued: Lek and her staff members were detained on payday when a clandestine and elite military/police unit showed up. There were sacks placed over the heads of the staff. One staff member had his face rearranged with the back end of an M-16 rifle. Stones were thrown at their cars. Lek was called various names, none of them printable.

And then came the worst possible. Lek had rescued a three-day-old baby elephant stuck between two trees in the jungle. The mother had been shot dead for daring to eat from some farmer’s field.

“Never before in history has it been documented that an elephant less than a week old survived without the mother,” Chailert told WND. “I stayed up with the baby, whom I named Ging Mai, day and night for six days. Then on the seventh day, I passed out from complete exhaustion. I had been giving the baby elephant milk from a bottle … and in the middle of the night Ging Mai woke me up to kiss me. It was then I knew he would live.”

Lek’s miraculous rescue of Ging Mai thrilled elephant lovers everywhere, but only served to further infuriate Thailand’s power brokers, who were still determined to somehow punish her.

“Sometimes I felt such fear … that I was walking alone on a dark road,” Chailert continued. “Many times I was set up by government people trying to put dirt on my name. For the last of couple years I’ve had hard times because of the elephants I rescued. We were constantly disturbed by government officials who allegedly came to check on us, but instead threatened and did anything they could to make our work too difficult and inconvenient to continue.

“Then one day a group of men came to see Ging Mai … ‘veterinarians’ … they said the government needed to check on my baby elephant. This was just days before his first birthday. They injected him with cyanide. Ging Mai ran to the lake and drank and drank water … I ran to him and he pushed at me … his eyes were all red. He was in agony and screaming. He died in my arms,” she said.

“Why, why, why did they murder my baby?” she said, while weeping almost hysterically in her Chiang Mai office.

Australian Michelle Kobylka, who has volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park over the past half decade, (and aspires to become a veterinarian, perhaps studying at Texas A&M) told WND that when Ging Mai was murdered, it left a huge vacuum at the park.

“We had this cart with wheels, and one of our elephants, Hope, used to play on it with Ging Mai. Ging Mai was only a baby. And when Ging Mai was murdered, Hope wouldn’t eat or play or do anything for days on end. I sat out in the field, crying and Hope came right up to me and put her trunk around me to offer consolation.”

Asia’s Hero

“Finally ‘Time Magazine’ announced me as ‘Time’s’ ‘Hero of Asia,'” Lek continued. “It seemed that I would finally find the light at the end of the tunnel, and the door of my dark room had opened. I felt safe again, not just only for me, but for our elephants as well.

“Most injuries to the elephants come from humans. I can say that the first reason is greed. People don’t understand the elephant’s nature. They use the elephant like a machine for making money. Sometimes when the elephant [is] sick they still force them to work – and then when the elephant rebels against such work they start to abuse the elephant in a cruel way.”

Lek Chailert has come a long way from her childhood and teen crusades to help Thailand’s elephants. These days she supervises a staff of 75 men and women who care for 33 elephants, including a little baby named, (no surprise) “Goldie.” Every day, visitors from around the world come to the Elephant Nature Park in order to feed (with corn, pineapples, bananas and watermelon at a cost over $250,000 per year), bathe and fuss over Lek’s elephants. It is here that visitors can take an excruciatingly long, slow walk with the gigantic yet gentle Max to the Mae Tang River for his bath, petting his trunk while his crushed legs make the journey.

There’s also the possibility for a special photography shoot arranged by Lek, even amongst the baby elephants and their massive and protective aunties.

Lek possesses a magical quality, an aura of humility and greatness. When she asked this writer to go to Sri Lanka on her behalf to investigate the plight of elephants at the baby elephant orphanage at Pinnewala, I dutifully went without question.

While at the Elephant Park, visitors also can listen to talks about the elephants given by expert guides. A film is also shown by the staff, (Jennifer Hile’s excellent “Vanishing Giants”) though the documentation of elephant abuse sometimes arouses great sadness and even anger. More than a few visitors told WND that capital punishment should be invoked for maiming and killing an elephant. One visitor remarked, “I’d have absolutely no problem with that.”

Former U.S. Navy Seal Mike Kelley, who saw the film, said, “You know I really love animals … elephants especially … but what the people do to the elephants …” his voice trailing off.

Says Chailert, “The volunteers and visitors provide most of the funds we get to help to support our elephant project. Some of our volunteers who stayed at the park help us raise money after they leave. Also, some school children around the world have adopted a few of the elephants and have helped support them.

“To see the elephants that have been rescued from very bad conditions … when they first arrive at the park they [are] like the living dead. Their eyes are empty and they are so skinny. Yet today I find them happy, joining new family groups, healthy and starting to play again. That is the most joyful thing to me and makes my heart smile,” she said.

Among Chailert’s many crusades is the “Jumbo Express,” an outreach to win the hearts and minds of the local hill tribes (Hmong, Karen and others) and teach them how to love and care for elephants through positive reinforcement.

Along with two professional veterinarians (one of whom hails from India), teams of volunteers (mostly college students, including veterinary students) they trek through the jungles of Northern Thailand in an effort to assist the injured elephants. Some projects include handing out presents at a local elementary school or undergoing back-breaking labor to build a community center.

Janna Schurer of Canada and Alexandra Bowes of Great Britain are archetypes of the new breed of elephant whisperer. Tall, blonde, pretty and well conditioned, these college students are not averse to getting their hands dirty, be it by handing out medicine for sows in a dark, rainy Karen village, or engaging in the aforementioned back-breaking labor.

Says Scherer, “Sometimes I think we have to consider why the people are so cruel to the elephants. Imagine being ‘them.’ Imagine their fear of these giant animals that could so easily kill you. There’s that other side to the whole question … why do they do what they do?”

Bowes, who spent part of her youth in Africa, said, “It used to be the vet schools were filled with men. Now it’s the other way around. When I do field work in the UK, some farmers wonder if I am qualified. I have to show them that I am qualified. Regardless, being in the field and volunteering is important to the future of any vet student.

“During the past months I was able to infiltrate an elephant camp, and I secretly took footage of elephants being tortured while being forced to paint pictures. You can see this kind of footage … the painting I mean … all over But people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes as the elephants are tortured with knifes and hooks to make them paint. I hope to soon publish this footage on in the fall when I return to the UK.”

Women like Shurer and Bowes are the new face and hope for Thailand’s elephants, whether through their hidden cameras or the sweat of their brow. They plan to carry on Lek’s work, and teach the coming generation about what has been done to and for the elephants, as well as the work which remains incomplete.

Is international cooperation the answer? Some have floated the idea of a major transnational consortium or grouping of the major elephant nations – akin to the G-8. These nations would include Thailand, Burma, the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. These nations could hold periodic meetings and form strategies to help their respective elephant populations. These nations, be they Buddhist, Hindu, Maoist, Marxist and/or fascist, could put aside their differences in an effort to show solidarity with all the world’s elephants.

History starts now

As for her ultimate goal, Chailert said, “One day I want to see the elephants in Thailand finally have a real home. I want to see them living in freedom – elegantly — in their own kingdom. My dream for the future of Elephant Nature Park is to have the park for the elephants that we rescued featuring 24 hours per day of freedom in their safe homeland.”

What’s left now for her work? To start, laws could and should be enforced to make it illegal to profit from an elephant begging on the streets. Such laws do exist but they are not uniformly enforced. Second, more protections could be instituted for elephants.

Also, the centuries-old violent and torturous “crush” or special cage where a soon-to-be domesticated elephant’s spirit is broken while long carpentry-style nails are sometimes stabbed into its inner ear should be re-examined.

And the forced “painting” by the elephants as depicted on must be exposed and forever ended.

There also have been proposals for land to be set aside for Thailand’s elephants. Such a “homeland” offers great promise. Consider that the nation of Borneo has set up an elite unit in which elephant rescuers, including veterinarians, a sharp shooter (armed with tranquilizers) and a super mahout/guide, slip into the jungle where needed. They perform surgery on the elephants on site in the jungle. The elephants in Borneo number around 1,600. Some leaders of the herds are monitored in real time by state-of-the-art tracking devices.

Since Thailand’s 5th Special Forces Regiment sits only a few miles down the road from Lek Chailert’s Elephant Nature Park, it is not hard to imagine some form of synergy emerging and a similar elite elephant unit being duplicated in Thailand.

Donations for Thailand elephant rescue efforts: Account Name: Elephant Nature Park Account No501-3-08706-7 Siam Commercial bank Thapae Branch Chiang Mai Swift Code: SICO-TH-BK

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

September 29, 2008 at 4:10 am

World Focus on Burma (2-12-2007)

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  1. World leaders call for Myanmar dialogue with opposition
    AFP –
    The leaders noted that the European Union had reinforced sanctions on Myanmar, which they called by its pre-military government name, Burma, …
  2. Report: Many Filipinos lack sanitary facilities at home, Philippines –
    … officials attended the EASAN conference—included the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Mongolia, Timor-Leste, China and Indonesia. …
  3. Mandela Says Ending HIV/AIDS Affliction Is
    audio clip VOA Burmese

    Former South African President Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Michel, right, arrive at the Nelson Mandela 46664 World AIDS Day Concert in Johannesburg, 1 Dec. 2007Nelson Mandela says the answer to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic lies in the hands of the world’s people

  4. Driving for Burma

    BBC Ko Sithu, an activist in Canada launched his month long campaign to drive a car across North America for Free Burma Campaign.

  5. Habitat for Humanity helps 15th family
    News 10 Now, NY –
    Habitat for Humanity Board Member, Vanessa Blase said, “Around ten years ago they fled Myanmar with the just the clothes on their back, in the middle of the …
  6. Author chronicles saving tigers
    Deseret News, UT –
    This, his third book, recounts perhaps his most dangerous adventure: the creation of the world’s largest tiger preserve in Myanmar (formerly Burma), …
  7. ‘Buddha,’ ‘Kertesz’ splashes color into dbcc’s new facility
    Daytona Beach News-Journal, FL –
    Pictures like his 1994 “Golden Rock, Kyaiktiyo, Myanmar (Burma)” and 1998 “A Monk Studies Buddhist Scripture in the Late Afternoon at a Monastery in …
  8. Burma tragedy hits home
    Press & Sun-Bulletin, NY –
    Kilmer of Binghamton was a high school English teacher at International School Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), from 1998 to 2007.
  9. Religious Lead Payer for Peace and Freedom in Burma
    Bosco Information Service, India –
    … introducing the evening with a brief history of the recent military repression in Myanmar. Burma has been ruled by a military dictatorship since 1962. …
  10. A violent and ‘friendless’ regime
    Waterbury Republican American, CT –
    Along with Sudan, Myanmar has been cited by the United Nations for continuing to use child soldiers despite repeated international demands to stop. Burma is …
  11. Report: Rampant corruption in Iraq
    United Press International –
    Only Somalia and Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, ranked worse. Some US officials estimate that up to a third of what they spend on Iraqi contracts and …
  12. There are 42 million fewer landmines today
    Winnipeg Free Press, Canada –
    Use of anti-personnel landmines is limited to only two governments, Myanmar/Burma and Russia. Global trade in landmines has virtually stopped. …
  13. America’s Standing in the World
    USA Daily –
    This is what inspires Buddhist monks to risk their lives to march against the military dictators in Burma (now Myanmar). This is what provokes outrage in …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 2, 2007 at 3:08 am

World Focus on Burma (1-12-2007)

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  1. Two nations in need of stability
    Hillsboro Times Gazette, OH – 5 hours ago
    By LEE HAMILTON Earlier this month, two leading United Nations officials seeking to bring peace and stability to Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Sudan incurred …
  2. True North writes book on ruby valuation
    The Northern Miner (subscription), Canada –
    Most of the world’s ruby supply comes from Myanmar. The military junta there controls a majority share of every gem mine, but the gem mines in the country …
  3. UN Envoy Denounces Burma’s Closure of Monastery
    Voice of America –
    By VOA News The United Nations’ special envoy to Burma has criticized Burma for closing a monastery the government believes was very active during recent …
  4. Free teaching real revolution
    Border Mail, Australia –
    REGARDING the revolution of education, I migrated to this great nation from my country of birth, Myanmar, then called Burma, in the year 1971. …
  5. Cambodia urges Burma to continue Suu Kyi talks
    Radio Australia, Australia –
    Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged Burma’s junta leaders to continue talks with detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. …
  6. ASEAN faces rocky year for charter, deals
    China Post, Taiwan –
    “The charter was pointless unless the situation in Burma changes positively toward the path of democracy and human rights,” Thitinan wrote in a commentary …
  7. Veteran TIME magazine correspondent assesses the world’s hottest …
    Journal Chrétien, France –
    Aikman was asked about the situation in Myanmar other wise known as Burma. What do you think is precipitating this and where is it going ? …
  8. Media Watchdog as Democracy Manipulator
    ZNet, MA –
    In her absence, Nweh’s RSF prize was presented to Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been living under house arrest since her party the …
  9. Walk here will back Burmese monks, nuns
    The Capital Times, WI –
    Burma, now known as Myanmar, has been under military rule since 1962. The United States has imposed economic sanctions against the government.
  10. Monday marks 10th anniversary of landmines ban
    AFP –
    Today, only two countries — Russia and Myanmar (Burma) — continue to stockpile and use antipersonnel landmines, underscored Brigot. …
  11. Trillanes mutiny interrupts Arroyo Laguna trip, Philippines –
    She said unlike the dictatorial regime of Burma (Myanmar), her government is adopting the policy of “widespread amnesty” to promote lasting peace, …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

December 1, 2007 at 2:42 am

World Focus on Burma (26-11-2007)

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  1. Too Many States Not on Course to Meet Clearance Deadlines
    Media For Freedom, Nepal –
    Government use of antipersonnel mines declined further, with only Myanmar/Burma and Russia continuing to lay new mines. Non-state armed groups in at least …
  2. Asean members have no time to waste
    Bangkok Post, Thailand –
    Philippine President Gloria Arroyo told Burma’s Thein Sein during a one-on-one meeting on Tuesday: ”The expectation of the Philippines is that if Myanmar …
  3. China must revalue yuan: Sarkozy, Australia –
    He said he wanted “vigorous” action from China on Myanmar, a close Chinese ally which crushed pro-democracy protests in September, sparking global outrage, …
  4. Burma Mobilizes To Protect 7M Kids Against Polio, New Zealand –
    Midwife Daw Kyin Nu is braving the cold rain in the hilly regions of Shan State, Myanmar, as she goes house to house to vaccinate children under the age of …
  5. Networking Central
    Philadelphia Jewish Voice, PA –
    … half way around the world, monks, and crowds of protestors marched in the streets of Yangon fighting for peace, freedom, and democracy in Burma/Myanmar. ..
  6. Sarkozy says China must revalue yuan
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia –
    He said he wanted “vigorous” action from China on Myanmar, a close Chinese ally which crushed pro-democracy protests in September, sparking global outrage, …
  7. UN Burma fact-finder to speak at Brown
    Providence Journal, RI –
    Paulo sérgio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur for human rights, said he is hopeful that crisis in Burma (called Myanmar by the country’s ruling generals) …
  8. Myanmar PM to visit Cambodia
    Xinhua, China –
    26 (Xinhua) — Myanmar Prime Minister General Thein Sein will pay a goodwill visit to Cambodia in the near future at the invitation of his Cambodian …
  9. Just words
    Pinoy Press, Philippines –
    Here was the most authoritarian leader the Philippines has ever had since Ferdinand Marcos declaring , albeit indirectly, the members of Burma’s ruling …
  10. Boat sinks near Bangladesh-Burma sea border; 50 people missing
    Toronto Star, Canada –
    Several thousand Burmese refugees, mostly Muslims known as Rohingyas, have fled to Bangladesh over the years, claiming persecution by Burma’s military junta …
  11. Myanmar ruby boycott proposal raises red flag
    Los Angeles Times, CA –
    “The sale of these gems gives Burma’s military rulers quick cash to stay in power.” (Myanmar is also known as Burma.) But a successful boycott of what …
  12. Indian Buddhist monks protest against Myanmar junta
    Reuters –
    … emblems,” Kyaw Than of the All Burma Students League said by phone from the town. A monk-led protest was crushed by Myanmar’s ruling junta in September, …
  13. ASEAN pays price for embracing Burmese junta
    Vancouver Sun, Canada –
    … said: “The credibility and reputation of ASEAN has been called into question because of the situation in Myanmar [the name the junta calls Burma]. …
  14. Thailand’s counterfeit pipeline
    Columbus Dispatch, OH –
    … Thailand shares borders with countries that don’t place a premium on intellectual property rights: Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar, formerly Burma. …
  15. Sarkozy urges Beijing to take on greater global responsibility, Italy –
    … and the massacre of Myanmar’s population are the key objectives which French President Nicolas Sarkozy set himself on his arrival in China yesterday, …
  16. ASEAN still toothless after 40 years
    Asia Times Online, Hong Kong –
    The senior diplomat, charged with mediating national reconciliation between Myanmar’s ruling generals and its oppressed pro-democracy movement, …
  17. Report: Myanmar monks have vanished
    United Press International –
    The crackdown by the military junta, which has ruled Myanmar, formerly Burma, since 1989, began after pro-democracy protests were taken over by the monks. …
  18. UN asks Vietnam to help rein in Burma
    Bangkok Post, Thailand –
    Noting that Hanoi is close to Burma’s ruling junta, Gambari said he hoped Vietnam’s government would “further encourage the government of Myanmar to …
  19. NLD branch welcomes Suu Kyi’s statement, India –
    On Monday, the Burmese state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, carried statements by the ’88’ generation students (The Union of Myanmar), …
  20. USDA to hold pro-government rallies
    Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
    The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper has been running a number of announcements since early November from ethnic and other political groups who …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

November 25, 2007 at 7:31 pm

World Focus on Burma (12-11-2007)

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  1. BURMA: UN human rights envoy in landmark visit – 12/11/2007
    Radio Australia, Australia –
    The United Nations Human Rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro is in Burma for his first visit in four years. He hopes to meet political prisoners and to find …
  2. Too many states not on course to meet clearance deadlines
    ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
    Government use of antipersonnel mines declined further, with only Myanmar/Burma and Russia continuing to lay new mines. Non-state armed groups in at least …
  3. UN envoy in bid to visit Burma prisons
    Evening Echo, Ireland –
    A UN human rights envoy who has returned to Burma after a four-year ban spoke to officials today about plans to visit prisons. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro wants …
  4. UN human rights expert searches for clues of abuse in Myanmar
    Earthtimes, UK –
    The crackdown on monks for conducting peaceful protests in a predominantly Buddhist country shocked the world and brought Myanmar’s military back into the …
  5. UN Burma envoy visits prison in hunt for ‘missing’ protesters
    Guardian Unlimited, UK –
    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the un’s independent rights investigator for Burma, spent at least two hours at Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison, where political …
  6. UN Rights Envoy Visits Myanmar Prison
    The Associated Press –
    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A UN human rights envoy on Monday visited a notorious Myanmar prison for political detainees and a Buddhist monastery earlier raided
  7. UN rights envoy visits notorious Myanmar jail
    AFP –
    At the time, former political prisoner Ko Aung told the BBC the British-built prison was known as the “darkest hell-hole in Burma”.
  8. India seeks release of political prisoners in Myanmar
    Sify, India –
    New Delhi: Pressing for “immediate” and “inclusive” political reforms in Myanmar, India on Monday sought release of important political prisoners and probe
  9. UN official starts investigation into brutal government crackdown, India –
    November 12, 2007 – Paulo Sergio Pinheiro kicked off his Burma investigation with visits to two monasteries yesterday. The UN official is in Burma to shed …
  10. Maternity ward as foreign as a mother’s new country
    Waterbury Republican American, CT –
    BY TRACEY O’SHAUGHNESSY REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN In June, the International Institute of Bridgeport resettled 64 refugees from Myanmar (Burma) in Waterbury. …
  11. Analysis: Can North Korea be removed from US terror list?
    United Press International, Asia, China –
    The North has also been blamed for a 1983 bombing in Myanmar (then Burma) that killed 17 high-ranking South Korean officials. The designation as a state
  12. “No Dam, Than Shwe Killer”, wall writing in Myitkyina, India –
    November 12, 2007 – Overtly concerned with the Burmese military junta’s plans to dam the Irrawaddy River, defiant university students in Burma’s northern
  13. Nelson Mandela Invitational stuck in a bunker, South Africa –
    In 2002, Gary decided to lend a helping hand in the design of the Pun Hlaing golf course in Myanmar (Burma). The Myanmar (Burma), we know now in 2007 is not …
  14. Dhaka seeks Yangon gas for fertiliser plant
    The Daily Star, Bangladesh –
    The proposal was made at the second Bangladesh-Myanmar Joint Trade Commission meeting at a Dhaka hotel yesterday. Held after three years, the commission …
  15. Myanmar and Israel – Fighting the Semantic Wars
    Israel Hasbara Committee (subscription), NY –
    Honors are about even in the media’s semantic war over Burma/Myanmar. The media split on Burma /Myanmar is however absent when it comes to using the place …
  16. UN chief hopes talks in Myanmar lead to reconciliation, democracy …
    International Herald Tribune, France –
    AP UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed hope Monday that talks between Myanmar’s military government and the pro-democracy movement will …
  17. UN rights envoy visits Myanmar’s main prison
    Reuters –
    The Brazilian law professor, on his first trip to the former Burma in four years, also visited Yangon’s former Government Technical College and a police …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

November 12, 2007 at 7:04 am