By Apinya Wipatayotin
Thai authorities insisted there is no evidence that illegally traded elephants in Thailand come from Myanmar.
Nipon Chotiban, acting director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said Thai authorities have made efforts to tackle illegal elephant trading in the country but there are no cases showing that those elephants came across the border from Myanmar.
He was responding to Myanmar's deputy environment minister Aye Myint Maung who claimed on Monday that elephants sold illegally in Thailand for the tourist trade were captured from Myanmar "but no arrests have been made".
The comment followed warnings in a recent report issued by the wildlife NGO Traffic that the trade in Thailand could resurface unless there are changes to various laws.
Mr Nipon said Thai authorities have tried to verify the origin of the elephants in question, most of which are living in elephant camps, but it cannot prove where they came from.
"If Myanmar has evidence to prove its case, please show us. We will cooperate," he said.
The way to deal with the problem must be through joint cooperation between the two countries.
He said authorities have set up checkpoints and border patrols to halt elephant smuggling but they failed to probe the elephants' origins.
About 80 elephants were illegally captured for sale in Thailand between April 2011 and March 2013, where they were put to work at tourist camps and hotels, the Traffic report said.
At least 60% of the animals trafficked originated from Myanmar, the report said.
The capture of wild elephants is considered a serious threat to Myanmar's wild population of around 5,000.
In Thailand there are about 2,500 to 3,200 wild elephants. The captive population is far greater, numbering 4,169 animals in 2012, according to government data.