Ban elephants. That is what the Thai Prime Minister has decided.
Thaksin Shinawatra says elephants brought in from the countryside cause road problems in an already congested capital city. In his national weekly radio address, he said he had told the Interior Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to “not let elephants into Bangkok”. Scores of domesticated elephants – estimates range from 60 to 250 – roam Bangkok streets with their handlers, begging for food or promoting the sale of ivory trinkets. They sometimes get hit by vehicles or fall into drains. Many of the elephants, extensively used for logging, were made redundant by a 1989 ban on the industry. Thaksin said financial backers purchase elephants and then rent them out to the tourist-tout handlers.
Traffic jams in Bangkok are considered to be among the world’s worst. It can take four hours to cross town, which is one reason why many Thai cabs come equipped with bathroom facilities. At six p.m., in the middle of rush hour, downtown traffic goes less than a mile an hour, on average.
Here is a discussion of Thai traffic problems, and their solutions. More mass transit, rerouting one way roads, and road pricing are the most promising alternatives to the status quo. Banning elephants is not mentioned, which leads me to suspect that the Thai Prime Minister is using them as a scapegoat (or should I say scape-elephant?) for the problem.
Don’t even ask about Thai traffic in the monsoon season.