BANGKOK: A Chinese tour guide has been trampled to death by a rampaging elephant in Thailand, reports said.
He Yongjie, 35, was killed on Thursday (Dec 21) at the Sam Liam Thong Kham elephant camp near Pattaya in an attack which also saw two other tourists injured.
Thai media and Chinese media reported different accounts of what happened.
According to The Bangkok Post, 17-year-old elephant Plai Uthen had been carrying its mahout and two tourists on its back when it was surrounded by He’s tour group.
The group started taking pictures and pulling the elephant’s tail, while the mahout tried to get the animal to move by pulling its chain and using an ankus, a tool with a hook used to handle and train elephants. The elephant then rushed at the crowd, killing the tour guide.
But the Chinese tourist who rode on the rampaging elephant, Mr Zhu, told Cqnews.net that it was the mahout who angered the elephant by striking it on the head with the ankus when it stopped walking.
As the elephant rushed towards the tour group, the tour guide tried to protect his tour group but was knocked down and trampled, the report said. Mr Zhu said he managed to hold on throughout the ordeal but his wife fell off the elephant.
The elephant was later calmed by other mahouts.
Thai police are now investigating the accident at the elephant park, which has offered He’s family 200,000 yuan, (US$30,500) in compensation, according to the South China Morning Post.
Prasert Thawee-apiradeeboonsueb, the owner of the elephant camp, and Au Bamrung, the mahout, have been charged with recklessness causing death and injury, the Bangkok Post reported on Friday.
Meanwhile, elephant rides have been suspended at the park while fences are being constructed to keep visitors from wandering off the designated paths.
The elephant will be also be retired from giving rides, the report added.
Thursday's rampage is the latest in a series of incidents which have renewed criticism of Thailand's animal tourism industry.
Earlier this month, a video of staff at a Thai zoo repeatedly prodding a tiger to elicit roars for tourist photos went viral, sparking outrage. In November, an elephant that starred in feature films and commercials crushed its owner to death.
A July report by World Animal Protection found that twice as many elephants are pushed into Thailand's tourism industry as the rest of Asia combined, with most kept in "severely inadequate conditions."
Out of 2,923 elephants documented as working in Asia's tourism trade, 2,198 were in Thailand.