Miniature elephant or mammoth scam?

TAK: Taking a break from bashing his cousins in the Karen National Union, a sergeant major from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) reportedly crossed the Thai border recently with an unusual piece of merchandise, one he came to hawking at an extraordinary price. Sgt Maj Tinai, from the DKBA 999 Division, claimed to be in possession of none other than a chang nam, or water elephant, which he was trying to sell for 5 million baht in Tak’s Mae Sot District. Water elephants, at only a few inches long, are much smaller than their land-living cousins. This particular specimen had a trunk, tusks and all four legs, said Sombat Phimpha, Headman of Wang Takinag village, who claimed had met the Burmese soldier. K. Sombat said that the chang nam was five centimeters long and was caught in a pond near Ko Sae Ni village in Myanmar’s Karen State. The forest surrounding the pond was devoid of all wildlife as all animals, big or small, are afraid of the power of the chang nam, he said. The specimen brought by Sgt Maj Tinai died seven days after its capture. After its demise, villagers lightly grilled it to prevent it from rotting, K. Sombat explained. “The villagers who found the chang nam gave it to the Karen Buddhist soldier to sell for them over the border. They knew Thais would be interested in buying chang nam, as they believe that whoever has one in their possession will have money pouring in and will know no danger, only happiness,” he said. This is not the first time Mae Sot has hit the news for its chang nam. In May 2003, a restaurant owner in the district achieved local fame when he claimed to have bought one from a Burmese man. His specimen was 7.5cm tall, 12.5 cm long and had all the features that one would expect to find on a fully-formed elephant. Before it died, again seven days after being captured, it had trumpeted like a full-size elephant, the owner claimed. Unfortunately, the owner was so worried about the security of his precious possession that he refused to let anyone see it. Sitthidech Mahawongsakul, Acting Head of the National Elephant Institute’s elephant hospital in Lampang, said that he had never come across a “mini elephant” such as the villagers were claiming to have seen. He dismissed reports of chang nam as a hoax. “There’s no such thing as water elephants,” declared Chisanu Tiyacharoen, Deputy Chairman of the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand. He challenged anyone who had one to send it in proof, or even just a hair sample, for examination. If the specimen proved to be a real animal it could be classified. Word of mouth and photos are not enough to prove the existence of water elephants, he said He then warned people not to believe everything they see. The report made no mention of whether Sgt Maj Tinai managed to find a buyer for his pricey specimen.

Thailand News
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