Chiang Mai elephant camps threaten to sue NZ paper over cruelty story

A group of elephant camp owners and supporters from Chiang Mai are threatening to sue a New Zealand newspaper for defamation over a story that detailed alleged cruelty to elephants in Thailand.

The various owners and representatives discussed the matter and other “western media lies” at a press conference at the Chiang Mai Hill Hotel in Suthep yesterday, Aug. 5.

The representatives claim that the New Zealand Herald published a story on July 31 that created a “negative image” for the industry. Speaking to the media, a spokesperson claimed that they wanted to clarify facts to create a better understanding of the Thai elephant tourism business, adding that foreign media continued to attack the industry without understanding the culture of Thai elephants.

The group also threatened to sue a spokesperson for the Tourism Authority of Thailand who is quoted in the article as saying “‘Please don’t ride the elephants and don’t support this business. We never support tourists riding the elephants.”


The group, throughout the press conference, constantly attacked foreigners with one person quoted as saying “why do they create news to make people hate Thailand?” While at one point discussing how practices had improved in the industry, the representatives seemingly didn’t address the elephant in the story which clearly shows signs of abuse.

Secondly, at no stage did the article even mention Chiang Mai begging the question as to why Chiang Mai elephant camp owners feel that they were personally defamed?

As it turns out, the New Zealand Herald article was a recycled article from April of an elephant abused at a zoo in Phuket, not Chiang Mai. The pictures were taken by Malaysian tourists as well – if this is some sort of vast, racist conspiracy it starts in Malaysia, not the western press. As follows is the tweet that started it all:

It gets even weirder – for some reason the New Zealand Herald is being targeted by the group but Yahoo Australia published the story the day before the NZ Herald complete with the same quote for TAT. That story was then picked up by Nextshark, an Asian-American publication that hates white people – were they being racist and hating on Thais as well?

“We must communicate, must speak, must tell,” a spokesperson for the group said. “Educating tourists and in the global media, we have to communicate as they had done to create the correct understanding of the Thai culture of elephants. We have to focus on communicating reality to the world.”

Suing a New Zealand paper that did nothing more than report the same story reported elsewhere isn’t a great start to a media outreach strategy.