Written at 10:30am Thursday the 27th June
I’ve just stepped out of court with the other WFFT supporters. The court ruling was shocking: Edwin, Noi (Edwin’s wife) and Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand were found guilty on all three charges. Officially, both Edwin and Noi go to prison (unless they pay for bail). From what I understand the Centre can continue running for the time being because the judge acknowledged that it still “does good work”.
The three charges laid were having an illegal medical centre, holding wildlife without the appropriate paperwork, and one of that I have yet to made clear on. Have a look at the official document from the government last year and Edwin’s reply to the different accusations. The disappointment of everyone today was obvious. I don’t understand how they were proven guilty. Edwin says it was a political decision – the judge did not turn up with an official verdict stamped by superiors, as is standard procedure; he instead merely verbally sentenced Edwin and Noi, meaning they don’t even have official court documents for today’s verdict. The whole procedure was carried out in Thai, but Edwin summed it up for us afterwards: The judge told Edwin they believed from the start that government officials did the right thing by raiding the facility last year and that they had spoken no untruths. He gave Edwin and Noi each a suspended jail term (of two years) and set bail at Bt30,000 each which they paid immediately. The suspended jail term means if anything else occurs over the next two years they will be imprisoned without bail.
The Thai government don’t want to shut the Centre down – but they don’t want to lose face to the likes of Edwin. Had he won, it would have proven wrongdoing by the DNP (Department of National Parks). And so, they sentenced Edwin and Noi instead, making them out to be the bad guys.
Edwin told me that had he known in the beginning how difficult things would have been in this country (a constant uphill political struggle), he would have thought twice about creating the Centre. I wonder what decides the breaking point of a person; when do you lose the energy to keep fighting? Edwin will be appealing the verdict to a higher court within 30 days. Is there any point in this? I don’t know. I don’t fully understand the level of corruption in this country, but I know today I witnessed it firsthand. How can someone be sentenced for doing good things? There was no mention of the 103 animals seized in last year’s raids, despite adequate paperwork being presented for each and every single one of them. And yet, the Centre keeps going and will continue fighting. Staff and volunteers are disappointed by today’s outcome (although perhaps not overly surprised), but the animals here and now under our current care are our main priority, and for their sakes normal life carries on.