A man was arrested in the early hours of February 21 for kidnapping monkeys from a popular tourist spot in Rasi Salai District. Police believe the monkeys were to be smuggled to Korea, to be eaten for perceived health-giving benefits.
At 3:30 am, Pol Lt Col Wisanu Reuangsri, an investigating officer at Rasi Salai District Police Station, received a phone call from Rian Phobutr, a resident of Village 5 in Tambon Wan Kham.
K. Rian, 58, said that a gang was catching monkeys at the nearby Wan Village Monkey Forest, a popular tourist attraction with a thousand-strong population of primates.
Col Wisanu rushed to the scene, where he found three people setting traps for the monkeys.
Also found was a cage containing three monkeys that the gang had already caught. Police arrested one of the gang but the other two managed to escape into the forest.
Police collected as evidence two monkey cages, 20 nets, a selection of various traps, hunting equipment, nuts and some bananas, which were used as bait. Police also seized a Toyota sedan belonging to the gang.
Arrested gang member Arun Kertphetch was taken to the police station for interrogation. Arun, 38, claimed that he was just the driver and had nothing to do with the monkey poaching.
The other two men had paid him 2,000 baht to drive to the forest and he assumed they were just going there to relax, he claimed.
If he had known what they were up to, he would never have agreed to take them, he said.
The only reason he had been caught was because he didn’t want to run away with the others and abandon his car, he added.
Arun said that when they got to the forest, he overheard the other two men saying that they would catch monkeys and export them to Korea, where they fetched three to five thousand baht. Some Koreans believe that monkey flesh, brain tissue in particular, is a strong tonic.
Police, however, found Arun’s story a little hard to swallow given that the gang had a plethora of professional monkey-catching equipment that Arun must have noticed as they were loading it into the car.
Police charged him with hunting a protected species without permission and being in possession of a protected species without permission.
Police said they would hunt for the other two members of the gang and expand the investigation to bust the entire monkey-to-Korea export ring.
Veterinarian Chitsanu Tiyacharoen, deputy president of the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand, said that the belief held by some Koreans that eating monkey brains is good for the body is completely false and that the Korean government is trying to wipe out the practice.
K. Chitsanu has a stern warning for anyone interested in discovering the alleged healing properties of monkey brains: “Eating monkey brains brings nothing but problems,” he said.
“Some people eat them and die soon afterwards because monkeys are very similar to humans and we can catch deadly diseases from them, such as hepatitis B and meningitis.”