By Sunthon Pongpao
AYUTTHAYA — Authorities on Thursday captured three men wanted on charges of killing an elephant for its tusks and keeping the raw ivory in a house in Suphan Buri.
Pol Gen Chalermkiat Sriworakhan, a police inspector-general, and Pol Maj Gen Sriwara Rangsiphramanakul, acting chief of the Region 1 Provincial Police, said Panya Srijaemdee, 60, was arrested at a house in Deombang Nangbuat district in Suphan Buri and his 32-year-old son, Narongsak, was captured at his wife's house in Rayong.
Manote Dokmaikhao, 23, was arrested at a construction camp site in Uthai ditrict of Ayutthaya, they added.
The three were arrested for allegedly fatally poisoning Khlao, a 50-year-old bull, last Friday in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district in Ayutthaya.
A pair of tusks weighing 19 kilogramme cut from the beast were found at Mr Panya's home in Suphan Buri and the three suspects confessed to slaying the elephant, according to police.
The two officers said the suspects were involved with wildlife traffickers and the killing of the elephant was the latest order from a customer to find tusks.
Mr Panya allegedly poisoned Khlao and his son cut off the tusks before fleeing in a pickup truck driven by Mr Narongsak, they added.
Police and soldiers on Thursday cancelled the crime re-enactment where the elephant was found dead on July 11 after more than 100 mahouts with 10 elephants and 300 people tried to attack the three men.
The animal, weighing about 4.9 tonnes, was chained to a tree near the Lop Buri River and the Elephant Kraal before it was slain.
Records showed the three men previously had been jailed for poisoning tigers at Bung Chawak zoo in Deombang Nangbuat in 2010. They were released after serving time of one year and six months in jail.
The three were arrested in Rayong on May 26, 2010 for poisoning four tigers at the private zoo in Suphan Buri three weeks earlier.
They confessed to police that they killed the tigers, took one carcass from the zoo and sold it to a trader in Nakhon Pathom for 200,000 baht before travelling to Rayong.
The elephant they allegedly killed in Ayutthaya last week was famous. Khlao was probably the best-known elephant in Ayutthaya. The pachyderm was featured in "Alexander", the controversial 2004 film directed by Oliver Stone about the life of the ancient Greek general and conqueror Alexander the Great.
Khlao also took part in several royal ceremonies, including one at Thung Makham Yong in May 2012 presided over by Their Majesties the King and Queen and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on their royal visit there. Thung Makham Yong is a model for a "monkey cheek'' project initiated by HM the King.
Laithongrian Meephan, owner of the Elephant Kraal, said the fact convicted wildlife traffickers had been arrested again so soon showed that punishment for trafficking was too lenient. He called for harsher penalties for wildlife traffickers.