Thai “tiger temple” defamation case fails to silence Wiek of Wildlife Friends

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:
BANGKOK–A year after the notorious Thai “tiger temple” sued
Wildlife Friends founder Edwin Wiek and representatives of the
Bangkok Post for defamation, Wiek is still speaking out about how
the temple keeps the tigers it exhibits and the case appears to be
dead.
Located in Kanchanaburi, about two hours by tourist bus from
Bangkok, the Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery
claims it “started in 1999,” with “a sick baby tiger, orphaned by
poachers,” and expanded to house other tiger orphans.”


The temple sued Wiek and the Bangkok Post after the British
charity Care for the Wild Inter-national described on the CFW web
site “evidence of tigers being regularly beaten, having urine
sprayed into their faces, being forced to sit in direct sunshine for
hours on end, and being kept in poor conditions with inadequate
feeding,” plus “evidence of illegal trade and breeding of tigers at
the temple.”
Care for the Wild noted that, “Tigers are reported to be
extremely lethargic during photo sessions, leading to concerns they
may be drugged.”
Wiek was sued as the purported source of the information,
said to have been collected from 2005 to 2008. The Bangkok Post was
sued for reporting the Care For The Wild findings.
But “the prosecutor has still not filed with the courts,”
Wiek told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “After the tiger temple was not happy with
the progress of the criminal case, the tiger temple also charged us
in Kanchanaburi civil court. When the civil court called us in for
an ‘off the record’ hearing,” Wiek said, “as is usual in Thailand,
we explained that the criminal case was already running in the same
province and that we had enough evidence to stop that case, in our
opinion. The criminal court then asked us to apologize to the tiger
temple and pay for their legal expenses,” Wiek continued. “However
we defendants vowed to deny the acusations and face court. I am very
sure that with the video evidence, photos, and copies of some
documents from the temple that we have, we could win the case in
the long run, maybe not in the provincial court as they are
sometimes corrupt, but in an appeal in Bangkok we would win.
“We had then several more meetings. The prosecutor told us
he felt he had no case, but he wanted the civil court to speak
first. In the end, in October 2010, the civil court did not accept
the case, as they felt our ‘slanderous accusations’ were in fact
sustained with evidence, and that as a charity involved in wildlife
conservation and animal welfare, we had not just had the right but
even a duty to report on animal abuse when we found it. Further,”
Wiek said, “the court had the opinion that a temple is a public
place of worship, not a business, so could not suffer financially
from bad press. The criminal court then informed us it would not go
ahead with the case either.
“We have been told to counter-sue,” Wiek finished.
“However, I am too busy with keeping Wildlife Friends running. I
will, however, continue the fight against these crooks in yellow
robes.”
The Thai Department of National Parks, Plants and Wildlife
in 2002 declared that the tiger temple was operating illegally, but
allowed it to remain open because there was nowhere else for the
tigers to go, said Care for the Wild.
In 2004, after Wiek exposed the possession of more than 70
smuggled orangutans by the Safari World zoo, who were used in
kickboxing acts, Wildlife Friends was repeatedly raided and Wiek
himself was briefly jailed. Wiek was eventually fined $525 and given
an eight-month suspended jail sentence for possessing 11 former pet
macaques who had been given to the Thai Animal Guardians Association
by their keepers, and were relocated to better housing at Wildlife
Friends after the Thai forestry department declined to take them.
Under continued pressure from Wildlife Friends and other
animal charities, 48 orangutans were removed from Safari World and
the orangutan acts were officially prohibited. But kickboxing acts
at Safari World were exposed again by the Daily Mail, of London, in
April 2010, and were still advertised on the Safari World web site
in mid-February 2011.

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