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Animals & Wildlife / Half of the 147 tigers rescued from Thai temple have died
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 17, 2019, 04:30:36 PM »
Half of the 147 tigers rescued from Thai temple have died

BANGKOK — More than half the tigers rescued three years ago from a Buddhist temple in Thailand where they served as a popular tourist attraction have died of disease, wildlife officials said Monday.

The tigers were vulnerable to illness because of inbreeding, leading to laryngeal paralysis causing respiratory failure, said national parks official Patarapol Maneeorn. Eighty-six of 147 rescued tigers kept at government-run wildlife sanctuaries have died.

The DNA of all 147 confiscated tigers could be traced to six tigers who were the original breeding stock, said Patarapol, head of the department’s Wildlife Health Management Division.

Such inbreeding “affects their well-being, resulting in disabilities and weakened health condition,” he said at a news conference. “And when they have weakened genetic traits, they also have problems with their immune system as well.”

The temple in the western province of Kanchanaburi served for more than a decade as a de facto zoo where tourists could feed tigers and pose for photos with them, despite concerns about possible mistreatment and suspicions of wildlife trafficking.

Police found tiger skins and teeth and at least 1,500 amulets made from tiger bones when they raided the temple, as well as 60 cub carcasses stuffed in freezers and in formaldehyde in jars.

Tiger parts, such as ground bones, are popular as traditional medicine in Asia. Tiger hides can sell for tens of thousands of dollars in China.

There are estimated to be more than 1,000 tigers in captivity in Thailand, but only about 200 in the wild out of a global wild population of about 4,000.

Patarapol said Thai authorities would do their best to care for the surviving rescued tigers.

“We are mobilizing team members, increasing our readiness and adjusting our plan,” he said. “We will provide the best care possible.”

Washington Post

Korat Schools / Re: The Ultraman Buddha controversy
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 16, 2019, 07:46:26 PM »

Buddhist group withdraws charges over 'Ultraman Buddha' paintings

Says painting contains 'hidden symbols'

A Buddhist group has withdrawn the charges it filed against five people over controversial paintings that depicted Lord Buddha as the superhero Ultraman.

Jaroon Wannakasinanon,  of the Buddhists' Power group, went to the Crime Suppression Division and withdrew the charges pressed earlier against the artist, university student Suparat Chaijungreed, and her supervisor Veerayut (surname not given); Papichaya Na Nakhon, director of Terminal 21 shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima; national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat; and lawyer Decha Kittiwithayanant.

The group earlier alleged the five people had "tarnished Buddhism" by their roles in the paintings controversy.

Mr Jaroon said on Monday that the paintings appeared to contain hidden symbols and, as such, should not be considered ordinary works of art.

The group, he said, had determined that the people named in its complaint, except Mr Veerayut, were "tools of elements [within society] who are out to undermine Buddhism".

Mr Jaroon said the group knew of at least two other people who supported the public display of the controversial paintings, and was moving to file formal complaints against them.

"We intend to pursue legal cases against all wrongdoers to the fullest extent of the law, in order to prevent the image of Lord Buddha becoming a target of sacrilege," he said.

"If we allow this to go on, we might see pictures of the Buddha sprouting animal heads in the name of artistic expression."

The painter, a student at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, came under attack after two of her four paintings were shown at an exhibition at Terminal 21 in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sept 3.

Mr Chalermchai was in the group's firing line for coming out in support of the student.

Two of the paintings have since been sold at auction, with one fetching 600,000 baht and the second 2 million baht. Proceeds from the sales will go to charity, according to the vendor.

Bangkok Post
Animals & Wildlife / Thai cranes make comeback
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 14, 2019, 05:25:54 PM »
Conservation efforts by Zoological Park Organisation pay off

Thongphun Un-chit could not believe his eyes when he spotted a Thai crane foraging for food in a neighbour's rice field in Buri Ram's Muang district back in 2011.

The last reported sighting of a Thai crane -- also known as the Eastern Sarus crane -- which is native to the area along the Thai-Cambodian border, was back in 1968, when Mr Thongphun was only eight years old.

"It looked very friendly and it didn't seem to be afraid of me," recalled the village head of Ban Sawai So.

"My eyes were fixed on the bird for several minutes. It is still one of my greatest moments in my life." — Thongphun Un-chit, village head of Ban Sawai So, Buri Ram

Since then, there have been more sightings of the crane, which was thought to be extinct in Thailand, thanks to the Zoological Park Organisation (ZPO)'s tireless conservation efforts.

"I think it's destiny. One good action attracts more good things," Mr Thongphun said.

"And that's how the people and the crane meet again."

When Mr Thongphun first saw the crane, he was immediately taken by its majestic appearance. The village headman took out his mobile phone and captured the moment in a short video clip.

Mr Thongphun thought he saw a rare Thai crane, but he could not be totally certain of his guess. So he posted the clip on social media, complete with a plea to anyone who could tell him what bird it was.

He then received a reply from the ZPO.

A ZPO officer explained the bird he filmed was most probably one of the 10 Thai cranes which the Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo had bred and released into the wild.

One may have flown over to Buri Ram and landed on the rice field in Ban Sawai So, the officer said.

"I was so thrilled to hear that," he said.

Mr Thongphum could still remember the story he was told as a child, when Thai cranes were still a common sight in Buri Ram and its surrounding provinces.

He never actually saw the bird, nor heard anyone in the neighbourhood who had the privilege of sighting the cranes, dead or alive, until that fateful day in 2011.

"Suddenly, it was right there in front of me. My eyes were fixed on the bird for several minutes. It is still one of my greatest moments in my life," he said.

Officials release cranes bred at the Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo into the wild. (Photos by Onnucha Hutasingh and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation)

Thai cranes are among the 19 wildlife species protected by the 1992 Wildlife Protection Act. That said, because of the damage to their natural habitat, the species was believed to have gone extinct in the wild in Thailand.

The cranes' disappearance from its natural habitat led to efforts to breed the birds in captivity. Their disappearance kickstarted the International Crane Foundation's (ICF) breeding project, which began in 1982.

The breeding efforts were not successful at first.

Later in 1997, Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo invested in the construction of the country's largest crane breeding facility. In the following year, the zoo received its first pair of Thai cranes, donated by villagers along the Thai-Cambodian border for the zoo's crane breeding project, in which both natural and artificial breeding techniques were employed.

By 2007, a total of 100 Thai crane offsprings were bred. Four years later, the zoo was able to return the first batch of 10 Thai cranes, aged between five and eight years, to the wild.

The birds were released at Huai Chorakhe reservoir in Buri Ram's Muang district in 2011. The following year, nine more cranes were released at Sanambin reservoir in Prakhon Chai district of the province.

Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo also presented a pair of Thai cranes to His Majesty King Bhumibol the Great, which were kept at Chitralada Palace.

The late king later granted permission for the male crane to be mated with a female crane from the zoo. The offspring, which the late king named "Hoen Hao", was among the cranes returned to the wild at Huai Chorakhe reservoir.

So far, 115 Thai cranes bred in captivity by the ZPO have found new homes in the wild.

According to the ZPO, Thai cranes are not a migratory species. Native to Southeast Asia, the birds typically live with their mate until either of them dies. Their natural habitats are found close to shallow ponds and they feed on plants and small animals.

"Humans pose the biggest threat to Thai cranes' existence. The birds were hunted for their meat and eggs," said Mr Thongphun.

Hunting, however, has decreased considerably as conservation campaigns gained traction in recent years, raising public awareness about the dwindling population of the cranes, he said.

However, the threat remains as excessive use of chemicals in farming endanger both the birds and their prey. Chemical residue often gets washed into natural ponds, killing off plants and small animals which the cranes feed on.

Without sufficient food, the birds are forced to move elsewhere outside of their natural range.

Furthermore, conservationists found that drought puts pressure on the cranes' feeding areas.

Early last month, 10 more cranes were released by the ZPO to coincide with the opening of a centre for conservation of swampland and Thai cranes in Buri Ram.

The centre was established by the ZPO in conjunction with its partners including the Buriram Sugar Plc, Thai Airasia and other local organisations.

The purpose of the centre is to hammer home the critical message about the importance of conserving Thai cranes and their natural swampland habitat. Many swamps can also be developed as valuable ecotourism sites, which can also double as a public educational site for those interested.

True Corporation, a project partner, has developed a smartphone application called "Doo Nok" or "Bird Watch", which can be used to identify the variety of bird species who live near Huai Chorakhe reservoir.

Visitors can also use the application to access more than 500 additional photographs of local birds in the area, as well as information which has been compiled and verified to comply with professional and academic standards.

The app can be downloaded in both the iOS App store and Google Play store.

That said, app users are reminded to keep a distance of at least 200 metres from the birds during a sighting trip.

As the centre is expected to draw a large number of visitors, Buriram Sugar Plc, a project partner, is supplying the centre with biodegradable food containers made of sugarcane paper, which degrades 14 days after use.

Local residents have also voiced suggestions to take the environmental conservation cause even further.

Pratthana Ounchit, 49, president of a community enterprise group in Ban Sawai So, said a ban against littering at the centre should be put in place, as the birds may eat discarded food, or even plastic containers, which they cannot digest.
Korat Schools / Re: The Ultraman Buddha controversy
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 13, 2019, 10:11:58 PM »
Second Ultraman Buddha painting sells for B2m

Pakorn Porncheewangkun with the second of the four controversial Ultraman Buddha paintings. This one sold at auction for two million baht, he announced on his Facebook page. (Photo taken from Pakorn Porncheewangkun Facebook account)

NAKHON RATCHASIMA: The second of the controversial Ultraman Buddha paintings was sold for two million baht at auction on Friday - with the seller promising to give the proceeds to charity.

Pakorn Porncheewangkun announced the result of the auction on his Facebook account.

"Closed this picture at two million baht," he wrote, posting a photo of himself standing beside the controversial painting.

He said the bidder had already transferred 500,000 baht in partial payment, and displayed the funds  transfer slip on his Facebook page.

The painting was put up for sale on Thursday, and by Friday morning had attracted a high bid of 1.5 million baht, an offer which was later exceeded.  The first of the four paintings to be auctioned off fetched 600,000 baht.

on Thursday, Mr Pakorn announced the second auction on his Faccebook page: "Let me continue by auctioning off this painting [one of the four Ultraman Buddhas] on this Hon Krasae talk show. This painting is now owned by a renowned photographer. He is busy with his work and asked me to auction it off. He bought it for 6,500 baht. Of the proceeds, 10% will be deducted to support the education of the student who painted it. The buyer wants to donate the rest to blind children and remote monk hospitals.’’

The Bangkok Post contacted Mr Pakorn on Friday morning and was told that a bidder had offered one million baht for the painting. He would close the auction at 3pm on Friday.

Mr Pakorn and other buyers bought the four controversial Ultraman Buddha works painted by a student artist at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University. On Wednesday, he auctioned off the first painting, which he bought for 4,500 baht, for 600,000 baht.

He said the two paintings had now raised 1.6 million baht, and the bidding for the second painting could still go higher.

Earlier, a group of Buddhists asked the Crime Suppression Division on Wednesday to prosecute the student and other people who supported her paintings, for depicting Buddha as the Japanese superhero Ultraman.

The group also targeted national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, Papichaya na Nakhonphanom, director of the Terminal 21 shopping centre where the paintings were exhibited, lawyer Decha Kitiwithayanant and the student's adviser. The extremists called for the destruction of all such paintings.

The Ultraman Buddha painting auctioned on Wednesday. It fetched 600,000 baht. (Photo supplied)

Korat Schools / Re: The Ultraman Buddha controversy
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 12, 2019, 05:12:50 PM »
Freaking out over art

The Ultraman/Buddha controversy seems to be spreading as a group of people calling themselves Chao Buddha Palang Phaen Din, or the Force of Buddhism, filed charges against the student who painted Lord Buddha as the 1970s-era superhero.

The self-proclaimed Buddhist protection group alleged that by painting the Lord Buddha in such an unconventional way, the student -- who is studying at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University's Faculty of Humanities -- has offended Buddhism.

The group also filed charges against National Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, who is a devout Buddhist; the lawyer who came out to support the student; the student's teacher; and the management of Terminal 21 in Nakhon Ratchasima, where the work was displayed.

The extremist group accused the student, whose name is withheld, of "sabotaging Buddhism, destroying the national heritage as well as hurting Buddhists across the country".

The group also said the painting may taint the image of Buddhism, one of the things that draws millions of foreign visitors to Thailand.

They also condemned Prof Chalermchai and others for lending support to the student and her works, which they deemed "unforgivably inappropriate".

The controversial painting was eventually removed from the show as several parties condemned the student, who was compelled to offer apologies to Nakhon Ratchasima's chief monk. The university, however, blocked the painter's plan to auction her work for charity, reasoning it would pile more pressure on her.

The painting saga has created a divide on social media. One side applauds the student's courageous creativity, while the other condemns her.

Note that this is not the first time that Buddhism-related artwork has caused controversy in this country.

In 2007, Anupong Chantorn's award-winning painting Bhikku Sandan Ka (literally, "monks with the nature of crows") which depicted monks' misbehaviour and greed, was removed from an exhibition at Silpakorn University. The prominent artist faced the same condemnation as the student.

The Ultraman/Buddha painting saga should trigger deep reflection about what Buddhism really means, and what it means to become a real Buddhist. Lord Buddha encouraged his disciples to study his teachings to the core, and use reason to get rid of ignorance, attain enlightenment, while freeing themselves from sins -- at least those mentioned in the Five Precepts. The Lord also taught his disciples to avoid extremism in whatever form, and to embrace the middle path.

Any self-proclaimed defenders of the Buddhist faith should understand that no paintings, artwork, or any other material can destroy Buddhism as long as the followers truly understand Lord Buddha's teachings, instead of obsessing over ceremonial rituals. Ignorance, in fact, can precipitate the religion's decline.

The fact that some senior university administrators have shown maturity throughout the painting saga was a welcome sign. Samat Jabjon, the university's vice rector, lauded the student's "artistic courage" and at the same time encouraged the institute to step in so the student won't have to face public pressure alone.

The vice rector also encouraged students to follow the middle path, where they can enjoy the freedom to express themselves while taking social sensitivities into consideration.

The ability to forgive and let go is an important part of being a good Buddhist. Those who condemn the student and her painting should be aware of this.

Bangkok Post

I don't think, it's Buddhism itself that draws foreign visitors but rather the impacts of Buddhism, the way people live in their pursuit of eternal happiness. I fully agree with the editor's opinion, that tolerance and appreciation are essential parts of Buddhism. To me they seem violated in this controversy.
Official Stuff & Laws / Sap-Ing-Sith – the better property lease?
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 12, 2019, 02:51:14 PM »
Please read this article about the new form of land registration for foreigners directly on the author's site:

Outlook for the future of foreign property investments in Thailand
Korat Schools / Re: The Ultraman Buddha controversy
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 12, 2019, 09:50:37 AM »
Ultraman Buddha painting up for auction

Buyers show the controversial Ultraman Buddha paintings; one is to be auctioned off for charity. (Photo supplied)

A buyer of one of the controversial Ultraman Buddha paintings has decided to auction it off for charity as a hardline Buddhist group seeks legal action against the student who painted it.

Pakorn Porncheewarakun, the buyer, said in Phetchabun province on Wednesday that he bought the painting for 4,500 baht and would not bow to attempts to recall it for destruction.

He said that he planned to auction off the painting and give the proceeds to a hospital in Nakhon Ratchasima, where the student lived, so that her Buddha-related work would benefit society in accordance with her inspiration for the painting portraying Buddha as a superhero.

He said he would also credit the student for the proceeds to be donated.

Mr Pakorn said he and his friend bought four Ultraman Buddha paintings by the student. On Wednesday afternoon a bidder offered 500,000 baht for one of the paintings.

In Bangkok a group of Buddhists asked the Crime Suppression Division on Wednesday to prosecute the student and other people who supported her paintings depicting Buddha as the Japanese superhero Ultraman.

Leading the group, Charoon Wannakasikanont said that Suparat Chaijanreed, the Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University student, and three other people who supported her idea had insulted Buddhism and violated the constitution and the criminal law requiring the protection of Buddhism and other religions.

Prime Minister's Office Minister Tewan Liptapallop on Wednesday said that the student did not have any ill intention, might have simply exercised her creative urge and already apologised; therefore, concerned parties should forgive her.

Aside from the student, the group targeted national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, Papichaya na Nakhonphanom, director of the Terminal 21 shopping centre where the paintings were exhibited, lawyer Decha Kitiwithayanant and the student's advisor.

He also called for the destruction of all such paintings.

Bangkok Post
Korat Schools / Re: The Ultraman Buddha controversy
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 12, 2019, 09:43:11 AM »
'Ultraman Buddha' paintings banned from sale

University cites 'social pressure on student'

The controversial paintings depicting the Japanese superhero character Ultraman as the Lord Buddha have been banned from sale by their painter's university.

Offers have been made to buy the paintings from undisclosed parties. However, the Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University where the painter, whose name has been withheld, is studying in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, has banned the sale of the images, reasoning that they would pile more pressure on the student, according to Kittichai Treeratwicha, the student's supervisor.

If sold and displayed outside the country, the images would trigger a social outcry, which was not the student's intention in producing the art, Mr Kittichai said.

The student would be subject to even more social pressure in that case, he added.

Meanwhile, Samat Jabjon, the university vice rector, said the institute should step in and solve the problem quickly, and not let the student face pressure alone.

The student should be commended for the "artistic courage" to create the painting, which was bound to stoke discontent in some quarters of society.

He said there should be a middle path, where the students can enjoy their freedom to express themselves artistically while also taking social sensitivities into consideration.

The student came under attack after two of her four paintings were shown at an exhibition at Terminal 21 in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sept 3. The organiser later removed them from the show, but not before the images had already been shared on social media. On Sept 7, the student apologised for the paintings.

Bangkok Post
Korat Schools / The Ultraman Buddha controversy
« Last post by Johnnie F. on September 12, 2019, 09:39:07 AM »
National artist defends student after Ultraman Buddha controversy

One of four paintings by an art student at Nakhonratchasima Rajabhat University that uses Ultraman to represent Lord Buddha. (Photo supplied by Prasit Tangprasert)

Renowned artist Chalermchai Kositpipat has supported a student under fire for painting Lord Buddha as Ultraman, a famous Japanese superhero protecting the world from evils.

Mr Chalermchai on Sunday said the art pieces painted by the student at Nakhonratchasima Rajabhat University show a courageous creativity that represents the thoughts of the young generation about Lord Buddha.

"What is happening shows a problem in our society. When young generations have creative ideas and use their imagination with a courage that reflects change, they are always criticised so that they do not want to do something new," Manager Online on Sunday quoted him as saying.

"Many kids can paint Lord Buddha as he was perfectly, but how many of them can think out of the box? This student can and she has done nothing wrong," the outspoken artist said. "Ultraman is the best character to represent Lord Buddha as far as her idea is concerned."

Mr Chalermchai is best known for the creation of Wat Rong Khun to show his dedication to the religion. The temple draws worshippers and tourists to his home province of Chiang Rai.

The art student, whose name was withheld, came under attack after two of her four paintings were shown in public at an exhibition at Terminal 21 in Nakhon Ratchasima last Tuesday. The images were later shared on social media.

The organiser later removed them from the show.

Another painting with the same concept of the student. (Photo supplied by Prasit Tangprasert)

On Saturday, the student was accompanied by provincial governor Wichien Chantharanothai and university vice rector Thawat Trachu and officials of the Buddhism Provincial Office and the Culture Provincial Office to call on Nakhon Ratchasima chief monk Phra Thepseemaporn.

She apologised to the monk and public for creating the paintings. But the student said she had no intention to ridicule or look down on Lord Buddha and the religion.

"I just wanted to show that Lord Buddha is a hero like Ultraman, who can stay calm among the temptations surrounding him and also protect human beings from evil to keep the world at peace," the student explained in tears.

Phra Thepseemaporn advised her to think thoroughly about religious issues due to their sensitivity and impact on worshippers.

The governor ordered all educational institutions in the province to check all work by students before presenting it to the public.

Bangkok Post
The city’s lawmakers unanimously passed the resolution in response to recent mass shootings. The National Rifle Association called it a worthless “sound-bite remedy.”

Unsettled by recent mass shootings across the nation, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution this week declaring the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist organization.

The resolution was introduced by Supervisor Catherine Stefani on July 30, two days after a shooting at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., in which three people were killed and more than a dozen others injured.

Before the resolution was put to a vote on Tuesday, Ms. Stefani spoke about the “carnage across this country,” also citing mass shootings last month in El Paso; Dayton, Ohio; and near Odessa, Tex.

Ms. Stefani said the N.R.A. conspires to limit gun violence research, restrict gun violence data sharing and block every piece of sensible gun violence prevention legislation proposed at local, state and federal levels.

“The N.R.A. exists to spread pro-gun propaganda and put weapons in the hands of those who would harm and terrorize us,” Ms. Stefani said in a statement. “Nobody has done more to fan the flames of gun violence than the N.R.A.”

While the resolution has no practical effect, Ms. Stefani said in an interview on Wednesday, “I firmly believe that words matter, and I think this is a step in fighting the negative impact of the N.R.A.”

The N.R.A. saw the action as a publicity stunt.

“This is just another worthless and disgusting ‘sound-bite remedy’ to the violence epidemic gripping our nation,” Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the association, said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is a reckless assault on a law-abiding organization, its members, and the freedoms they all stand for. We remain undeterred, guided by our values and belief in those who want to find real solutions to gun violence.”

The N.R.A. also responded on Twitter, saying that it was “the fabric of American society” and “San Fran should be ashamed.” The post included a video of Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s chief executive, calling on N.R.A. members to stand up as Americans.

In a news release on Wednesday, Ms. Stefani referred to the federal Justice Department’s definition of terrorist activity, which involves the use of a firearm, weapon or dangerous device to endanger the safety of individuals. The definition also includes members of organizations that provide funds, weapons or training to individuals who commit terrorist acts.

The gun homicide rate in the United States is 25 times higher than that of any other high-income country and the gun ownership rate is two times higher, Ms. Stefani said. With 393 million guns in this country, there are more guns than people, she added.

“Every country on earth has video games, movies and mental health issues, and yet only the U.S. has gun violence at elementary schools, at the movies, at Walmart,” Ms. Stefani said. “The difference is guns. No other country has so many assault rifles on their streets.”

In August alone, 53 people died in mass shootings, including 22 in El Paso; nine in Dayton; and seven near Odessa. The Justice Department defines a mass killing as three or more deaths in a single episode, excluding the death of a gunman.

New York Times

Good move!

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