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‘Sacred’ tusks come home, alleged thief stays in Myanmar

Jun 13. 2017
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By The Nation

A former village headman in Tak will not face charges related to the alleged theft of “sacred” elephant tusks after striking a deal on their recovery from Myanmar.

Senior officials in Myanmar sent subordinates to negotiate with their counterparts from Tak’s Umphang district on Monday, according to a source on the Thai recovery team, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It was agreed that the tusks would be returned to Umphang, but Baisu Khiridujjinda would not be brought back for prosecution, the source said on Tuesday.

The elaborately carved, century-old artefacts were taken last Friday from a pavilion in Letongkhu, a Karen village in Umphang’s Tambon Mae Chan. They were later found at a new ashram on Mount Mulayit in Myanmar’s Myawaddy province. 

Although the 10-member team led by Umphang district chief Pratheep Photiam retrieved the tusks from officers of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) who had helped locate them, and returned them to Letongkhu pavilion on Monday, Baisu remained a free man. 

The source said Baisu, who had taken up residence at the ashram and apparently planned to use the tusks to attract disciples, denied stealing them. He implied he had only borrowed them long enough to “perform a ritual”. The DKBA agreed not to turn him over to the Thai officials. 

The source said Baisu might have had military backing in the alleged theft, since the tusks came from a male elephant named Kwang Phu that was born on Mount Mulayit more than 200 years ago and taken to Letongkhu by a Karen mahout.

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