Thursday, 15 September 2011

Hot Spot: Thailand and Myanmar-Burma - Land Mines

Elephants, Landmines and Courageous Women
This is a story of hope and help, by necessity it must also be a story of harm and injury.The photos are graphic, the life and pain of the victims all too imaginable. Yet, the hope and healing provided by this amazing organisation and the kind hearts, grit and determination of the individual people involved - is inspirational. Please stay, read and watch the videos.  Soraida Salwala is a courageous and amazing woman. Windy Borman a visionary and determined one. Thanks to both of them for their care and dedication...thanks especially to the Elephants for their strength and spirit.
For Elephants
Jude Price
14 September 2011

Photo by Soraida Salwala (c) April 2010
Elephants in Asia face a number of critical issues. They are *endangered in the wild, the live capture of wild elephants for tourism and logging, the killing of mothers and aunties to bring in babies to the cities for the tourism industry, abuse and neglect, the killing of wild *males for their tusks to fuel the Ivory Trade. All are important and must be addressed. Today, one issue is highlighted from this litany of woe - land mine injury.

Background: Land Mines in Myanmar-Burma
According to Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor, there are an unknown number of landmines in Myanmar/Burma. The country is not a Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, which came into effect on 1 March 1999. There are 156 Signatories to the Treaty. Interestingly, the *United States of America is also not a Party to the Treaty.

States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty are obligated to; destroy their stockpile within four years of signing the Treaty, identify and clear mined areas under their jurisdiction as soon as possible [and no later than 10 years after signing], provide assistance to mine victims, support mine-risk education and to submit annual reports on their implementation activity.

Landmines continue to be laid in Myanmar/Burma and because of the political situation, there is no humanitarian group inside the country actively removing the land mines. In Karen State it is *reported that there is is one human land mine injury every day. More than 14 percent of those injured have stepped on land mines within half a kilometre from the centre of their village. There are a number of *organisations assisting human survivors of land mine injury. 

Elephants and Land Mines
A *CNN report on 30 August 2011 states "Today, in Thailand and along the Burma border, more than 300 domestic elephants work -- and untold numbers of wild elephants -- are daily at risk from landmine explosives."

Logging has been *banned in Thailand since 1989, Elephants, who previously worked in logging, are being used in the tourism industry, or if they live close to the Myanmar/Burma border many *mahouts take their Elephants over the border to work - despite the great risk of injury. They do so to feed their families. Many Elephants die as a result of these injuries, some are left in the forest and spend days in agony before succumbing to their wounds. Landmines are amongst the ugliest inventions of mankind, and their continued use is deplorable. People, Elephants, domesticated animals and wildlife who step on a landmine - suffer permanent disfigurment and disability or die from their injuries.

The original video is here:

Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital
Soraida Salwala is the Founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant [FAE], a small Non Government Organisation [NGO] in Thailand, it is a Thai registered charity. Soraida is also the Founder of the world's first Elephant Hospital. Since inception in 1993 the hospital has handled more than 3000 veterinary cases - which include eye-infections, gun-shot wounds, car accident injuries and even the more mundane; but no less dangerous, infliction of stomach upset - as well as the Elephants who have stepped on land mines.  Their work is supported by individual donations, assistance from organisations like the Brigette Bardot Foundation and was a recipient of funds from The Elephant Parade 2010. All Elephants are provided treatment at no cost - and their mahouts can stay at the hospital *free-of-charge for the duration of their Elephant's hospitalisation. 

(Update 1 Nov 2011: PaHaePo died yesterday of his wound)
Photo by Soraida Salwala (c) 11 September 2011
PoHaePo's Story
The latest survivor of a land mine injury is PahaePo, a male Thai elephant who wandered over the border into Burma. On 11 September 2011 FAE was alerted to his injury and on 12 September he was transported throughout the night to FAE. 

The journey was hazardous and long, and the rescuers faced many difficulties because of wild stormy weather; such as a landslide and trees fallen across the road because of the heavy rains. At the landslide, they had to wait four hours for the road to be cleared, one of the volunteers walked many miles to get to a place where he should get a mobile signal to call through and inform FAE of the enforced delay. A dedicated group of people indeed. 

A vet was waiting for PoHaePo and his rescue team at the border post and administered painkillers to PoHaePo before the onward journey. Thai police assisted the trucks passage through Thailand and after many arduous days and hard work for the volunteer rescuers, PohaePo arrived at FAE. PoHaePo's injury is serious and he will require months, if not years of veterinary care as well as daily care, love and attention.

PoHaePo's damaged foot.
Photo by Soraida Salwala (c) 11 September 2011

[The original online story of his journey is here: Eyes of Thailand | Windy Borman]

MaeKaPae, Mosha and Motala's Story
In August 2010 the Friends of the Asian Elephant received their 13th land mine survivor, MaeKaPae, who also stepped on a land mine on the Thai/Myanmar-Burma border, the sole of her foot was severely damaged. Following a year of care, MaeKaPae was released from hospital this week, 13 September 2011, and sent back home.

Dr Preecha Phuangkam, a vet and the FAE Hospital Director has years of experience treating Elephant land mine victims. An earlier survivor, Motala - who is featured in the film The Eyes of Thailand, received a prosthetic limb. Soraida said 'It has been a tremendous effort of mankind really, to make an Elephant's prosthetic, there has never been one before". 

Dr Phuangkam, also in the film, said of Motala "The landmine injury took nearly ten years before the wound healed, now we can make an artificial leg for her". She was the first Elephant at FAE Hosptial to be fitted with a prosthetic limb. In the following video, a younger elephant, Mosha has her foreleg prosthetic is fitted. 

Mosha, a young landmine survivor walks with prosthetic limb at FAE.
The original video is here:
Mosha and Motala
Photo by Soraida Salwala (c) March 2010
The Eyes of Thailand - A Documentary About FAE
D.V.A. Productions, in Association with Indiewood Pictures, is producing the powerful and hard-hitting feature documentary The Eyes of Thailand, the true and inspirational story of Soraida Salwala's quest to help the two elephant land mine survivors, Motala and Baby Mosha [pictured above] to walk on their own four legs. Treating their wounds was only part of the journey; building elephant-sized prostheses was another. 

Directed and Produced by Windy Borman and Produced by award-winning producer Tim VandeSteeg, The Eyes of Thailand is a story of sacrifice and perseverance that shows how far one woman will go to save an endangered species from threats, both those above and those below the surface. 
The Eyes of Thailand is currently in the post-production phase and set to premiere in early 2012.

Elephant E-ctivism asked The Eyes of Thailand's Director and Producer. Windy Borman to discuss The Eyes of Thailand, Soraida Salwala and the next steps in the production process. Windy spent over three years travelling to Thailand from her home in the US to make the documentary. 

"I first met Soraida Salwala at the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital in 2007. I was profoundly moved by her story, beginning as a young girl with an early love for elephants and continuing with her passionate and brave actions to save the species from hardship, abuse and extinction. Ignited by admiration for Soraida, and poised to delve deeper into the threats against the Asian Elephants—and Soraida’s quest to save them— The Eyes of Thailand documentary began to take shape.

My goals for the Film are to inspire viewers to protect Asian Elephants and encourage their governments to ban the use of landmines. Ultimately, I hope to convey the added sense of urgency for people and organizations worldwide to pressure Thailand to change laws to protect the dwindling number of Asian Elephants. If nothing is done, the species will become extinct within the next 50 years...

BoonMee's Tear
 © Jodi Frediani
"A profound moment was witnessing Boonmee, an 8-year old elephant landmine victim, struggle to walk after stepping on a landmine in 2010. Her lower front leg looked like an exploded cauliflower as she delicately limped from her iodine bath to her cushion. When she rested her forehead on a post, tears filled her eyes and she began to weep, in what I took to be grief and pain. If I ever second-guessed why I was dedicating four years of my life to a film, here it was: to try to prevent any more elephants - as well as other beings -from stepping on landmines."

BoonMee prepares to step into an antiseptic footbath.
[AP Photo/Wichai Taprieu]
To date, The Eyes of Thailand has been primarily funded through tax-deductible donations. The post-production phase; that is, editing, music composing, animation, graphics, etc, is one of the most expensive parts of filmmaking, so although filming finished in 2010, Windy and her team have spent 2011 fundraising, recruiting the post-production team and editing the Film. Windy says " I am happy to announce that we’re on track to submit to U.S. and international film festivals this fall, which means we could premiere the Film in 2012, depending on which festivals acceptance us."

The best way people can support The Eyes of Thailand and make sure this important and moving story reaches the rest of the world is to donate to The Eyes of Thailand - IndieGoGo campaign. The current fundraising goal is $US75,000 and all donations are tax-deductible, for US residents, through the fiscal sponsor, the San Francisco Film Society. The Eyes of Thailand team have also gathered some great donation perks for donors, including posters, 
T-shirts, artisan chocolates, stainless steel water bottle and artwork. There is even a chance to win a 15-day Trip for two in Thailand from Intrepid Travel!

Elephant Ending... Just the Beginning

Soraida Salwala is a determined and courageous woman for whom Elephants are the centre of the universe. Without Soraida the lives of the land mine affected FAE Elephants would be poorer indeed. To assist individual elephants in need like Mosha, Motala, MaeKaPae, PoHaePo and others, please consider supporting Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital. [Details below in - How You Can Help]

You can read more about Soraida from an article written by Nature Alert Founder and CEO Sean Whyte here: Who is Soraida Salwala? Part 1 and Who is Soraida Salwala? Part 2

The FAE Foundation's main objectives are to: 
  • Assist Elephants to enjoy improved living conditions, 
  • Treat and assist injured Elephants and help them to survive and adjust within natural surroundings,
  • Collaborate with other charity organisations to assist Elephants and mahouts and to aid professionals working to improve the lives of elephants such as researchers, veterinarians, fundraisers; 
  • Gather data on Elephants and uses that data to promote the survival and wellbeing of elephants in the wild and those that are used for domestic purposes. 
  • FAE is not affiliated with any political organisation.
Windy BormanDirector and  Producer of the documentary film Eyes of Thailand has a vision to take the story of the Elephants and Soraida's work to a mainstream audience. Currently living in San Francisco, California, she also serves on the Advisory Board for Bay Area Women in Film and Media. "So many people are not aware of this aspect of Elephant's lives - and a mainstream film shown in movie theatres, on pay-TV and available online will help to raise awareness, understanding, educate and gain support for the important work of Soraida and FAE." You can read more about Windy and The Eyes of Thailand production team: here

How You Can Help

Friends of the Asian Elephant
This bank account is for general overseas donors
August 16, 2011
Soraida Salwala

Overseas Bank Transfer

Bank of Ayudhya Public Co., Ltd.
Suanplu Branch, Bangkok, Thailand
A/C Number: Savings No. 040-1-14242-7
Swift Number: AYUDTHBK


Personal cheques are accepted. FAE's bank automatically deducts approx.$10.00 in fees from each cheque. [It would be a great help if you added the fee to help FAE!]

295 Moo 6, Lampang-Chiangmai Road (K.M. 28-29),
Viengtan, Hangchatr District, Lampang 52190
Please, kindly inform FAE Accounts or 

fax 66-(0)-54-829-308  and your full address so our staff could issue the receipts


Sara is a volunteer for FAE and confirmed as a viable and authorised transaction for FAE by her inclusion on the official FAE Facebook page
. To donate to FAE, go to and "request to send money to anyone with an email address". 
Send donation to
Please save/print your Paypal email receipts and email FAE to inform them of your donation:

Source for this donations information: FAE Official Facebook Page

Eyes of Thailand Film Production
You can assist Windy to take The Eyes of Thailand to a mainstream audience.
All Donations are tax-deductible through our INDIEGOGO campaign:

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10 years. 2 souls. 1 amazing feat. Witness @SoraidaSalwala & Motala’s journey in the powerful @eyesofthailand film

We need YOU! Please go to and share the @eyesofthailand indiegogo campaign with your network. Krup kum ka!

YOU can be a part of the inspiring and powerful documentary @eyesofthailand today! Visit to learn how. #elefriend

Source from this donation and how to help information: Windy Borman

The opinions expressed in this article; except for quotations, are purely those of the author and do not reflect; or imply to reflect, the opinion or affiliation of any other individual mentioned.

References and Resources
About Landmines and Their Use in Burma
Federation of Trade Unions Burma
Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor

Assistance for Thai and Burmese Land Mine Survivors...
ActionAid (formerly Austcare) Australia
Clearpath International

About Elephants, FAE and Land Mines
Impacts on Logging Bans in Natural Forests: Thailand 2001
CNN Report 20 Aug 2011
Friends of the Asian Elephant - Current
Facebook Soraida Salwala - Current 
Santa Cruz Sentinel - 1 February 2011
Eyes of Thailand | Windy Borman 12 September 2011
Guardian Online - 15 September 2011
Huffington Post - 15 September 2011

Other References
ICUN Redlist [see more below]
The Elephant Parade
The Brigitte Bardot Foundation
Nature Alert

Facts and Glossary
1.  Only the male of the species, Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) grows tusks.
2. AVAAZ the international human rights group has a petition calling on the President of the US to sign the Mine Ban Treaty here:
3. 'Mahout' - is the name for an elephant handler, usually they are the owners of the elephants but some mahouts are employed by others to work the elephants.
4. From ICUN Redlist about Population of Asian Elephant
"A recent estimate for the global population size of the Asian elephant was 41,410–52,345 animals Sukumar (2003) The estimated population size for each country was: Bangladesh 150–250; Bhutan 250–500; Cambodia 250–600; China 200–250; India 26,390–30,770; Indonesia 2,400–3,400; Lao PDR 500–1,000; Malaysia 2,100–3,100; Myanmar 4,000–5,000; Nepal 100–125; Sri Lanka 2,500–4,000; Thailand 2,500–3,200; and Viet Nam 70–150 (Sukumar, 2003) . However, Blake and Hedges (2004) and Hedges (2006) argue that the oft-repeated global population ‘estimate’ of about 40,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants is no more than a crude guess, which has been accepted unchanged for a quarter of a century. They argue that with very few exceptions all we really know about the status of Asian elephants is the location of some (probably most) populations, with in some cases a crude idea of relative abundance; and for some large parts of the species range we do not even know where the populations are, or indeed if they are still extant. These difference of opinion are due in part to the difficulty in counting elephants in dense vegetation in difficult terrain, different survey techniques being used in different places, and a too-widely held belief that population monitoring is unimportant. Nevertheless, whatever the error margins, it appears almost certain that over 50% of the remaining wild Asian elephants occur in India.

The overall population trend of the Asian elephant has been downwards, probably for centuries. This remains the case in most parts of its range, but especially in most of the countries of South-east Asia. Within India, there is evidence that the large population in the Western Ghats in south of the country has been increasing in recent years due to improved conservation effectiveness."

Contact Details

Soraida Salwala
Founder & Secretary General
Friends of the Asian Elephant
facebook: soraida.salwala
twitter: SoraidaSalwala
Mobile : 66-(0)-81-936-3500
FAE Elephant Hospital : 66-(0)-81-914-6113
fax: 66-(0)-54-829-308

Windy Borman 
Director & Producer
PO Box 420395

San Francisco, CA 94142

facebook: eyesofthailand
twitter: eyesofthailand
youtube: Windy Borman

Jude Price
Elephant Advocate
Founder: Elephant E-ctivism
twitter: PelsFishingOwl