Guest post: Leanne Fogarty
I did my scuba certification on Koh Tao nine years ago. Now I can’t believe how over-run it has become. Precious memories of a spiritual, soulful paradise are bombarded by 20 taxi drivers shouting at you for your patronage. Is it us or the Thai who created this decline? Not a difficult question given that most Thai are relatively poor and need to etch a living wherever they can. Likewise it’s easy to resent the “inhumane beasts” that would torture a baby elephant.
But WE created that demand in the market. It’s US who are willing to pay ludicrous sums so we can get our perfect Facebook shot atop an elephant or cuddling a tiger. They are just giving us what we want and food and clothing to their family. One shouldn’t be quick to judge. I’m not excusing the “phajaan” by any means, but if we were no longer so privileged, would we not bend some of our morals so our family could survive?
Being a mahout (person looking after the elephant day-to-day) is not a well-paid vocation in Thailand. Often they are not the actual owners who reap the benefit of our limitless dollars. They are just trying to make it from one day to the next. It isn’t as black and white as it seems.