By Leon Gettler >>

IN CHINA, a blockchain venture seeks to create a smart city. The implications of the research will be global. It could create smart cities around the world.

Ada Xiao is the chief strategy officer for PlatON, the pioneering global privacy-preserving computing network. Located in Hangzhou, it is working with Innova City, seeking to create China’s largest blockchain-powered smart city project. 

Is due to be completed in 2025.

Ms Xiao said PlatON is working with automotive component company Wanxiang, which has been investing heavily in electric vehicles.  The company has invested US$29 billion into the smart city.

“I believe it will become the biggest blockchain empowered industrial grade smart city in the world once it’s completed,” Ms Xiao told Talking Business.

“Innova City will be featuring Wanxiang’s advanced manufacturing facilities for renewable energy, and electric vehicles, and it will have 90,000 residents who will be living and working there once it’s completed.”

PRIVACY BLOCKCHAIN

Ms Xiao said Innova City would be using PlatON’s privacy blockchain solution. It would monitor driving behavioural data to train auto-driving systems, as well as to record and monitor electric vehicle life cycles, in order to manage ecological waste efficiently

“Basically we will build a smart city that’s safe, greener and more efficient,” she said.

As part of the privacy guidelines, PlatON would be encrypting the data to ensure it is not exposed.

She said it was groundbreaking work.

“We realise that with so many smart city projects out there, one thing that is of concern is they don’t have a very good privacy-centric, decentralised infrastructure which we think should be the foundation of smart cities because you need this privacy-centric infrastructure to facilitate data sharing and better collaboration to greater lengths,” Ms Xiao said.

“That is very crucial to making a city smart.”

DATA IS ‘NEW OIL’

Ms Xiao said data had now become the “new oil”.

“In order to make data the new oil in order to flow, we really need to make sure that privacy is preserved,” she said.

With a workforce of about 100, PlaTON has offices Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong and plans to open an office in Singapore.

Ms Xiao said PlaTON planned to move into other sectors, beyond smart cities and the goal was to create a network that would facilitate the safe and secure circulation of data.

“That’s not limited to smart cities,” she said.

“It can be used to accelerate industries and advanced technologies. We are seeing demand in verticals and industries such as finance, health care and IoT logistics.

“Bascially it is designed for industries and applications that can benefit from data sharing in a decentralised network.”

That would, she said, be particularly important in industries such as health care and finance that put a lot of emphasis on privacy. 

www.platon.network

www.leongettler.com

 Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.

ends

By Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

IN A GLOBALIZED world that is increasingly linked yet beset with all sorts of ethnic, economic and martial divides, Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok to preach a message of unity and compassion.

During his recent, four-day visit, the pontiff presided over Catholic mass at a historic church, had a private audience with His Majesty the King, visited a Catholic hospital and gave a speech at Government House.  

Before an audience that included Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Pope spoke of why he has made human trafficking a priority issue during his papacy.

While he lauded the Thai Government’s efforts to combat this social menace, he stressed the need for more countries to do their part in protecting women and children from exploitation. The most vulnerable members of society, he said, are routinely “violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse".

In the midst of a global refugee crisis, he said, “May every nation devise effective means for protecting the dignity and rights of migrants and refugees, who face dangers, uncertainties and exploitation in their quest for freedom and a decent life for their families.''

Throughout his visit, Pope Francis, 83, balanced spiritual matters with secular concerns. At a holy mass in the Assumption Cathedral, founded more than a century ago, he urged the 7,000-strong audience to “maintain your joy and to look to the future with confidence. Rooted in Christ, view all things with the joy and confidence born of knowing that the Lord has sought us out, found us and loved us infinitely".

MULTI-FAITH MEETINGS

Pope Francis's visit, which coincided with the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the first Catholic mission in the country and the 50th anniversary of establishing formal diplomatic ties between Thailand and the Holy See, included a private meeting with His Majesty the King and a talk with the supreme patriarch of Thai Buddhism. 

At Wat Benjamobophit, where revered monarchs like the late King Rama VIIII and King Rama IV ordained as monks, the Pope met with the spiritual leader of Thai Buddhism, to discuss how these faiths can work together to promote religious harmony and help the needy.

It was the first such papal visit to the residence of the supreme patriarch since Saint John Paul II visited in 1984. Their meeting came only eight months after Pope Francis invited the supreme Buddhist matriarch to attend a summit of religious leaders discussing sustainable development projects under the umbrella of the United Nations.  

The biggest events of the papal visit took place when the pontiff said mass at the National Stadium and Tephasdin Stadium before some 70,000 Catholics. Dressed in the Vatican colours of white and yellow, some of these pilgrims had travelled from the furthest reaches of the kingdom to be blessed by the pontiff and hear him speak. As he drove around the stadiums in the pope-mobile, the crowd waved Vatican flags and shouted, “Viva Il Papa.”

Once again the Pope addressed the plight of the poor, who had fallen victim to human traffickers and been stripped of their “essential human dignity,” as well as “young people enslaved by drug addiction and a lack of meaning, which makes them depressed and destroys their dreams".

He also expressed concern about migrants, the homeless and labourers exploited by criminal networks, who remain invisible in many communities.

“Let us not deprive their communities of seeing their faces, their wounds, their smiles and their lies. Let us not prevent them from experiencing the merciful balm of God’s love that heals their wounds and pains,” Pope Francis said. 

ends

By Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

ONCE KNOWN as one of the world’s top growers of recreational marijuana, Thailand has turned over a new leaf by becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise cannabis-based products for medical patients, the Thai Government announced at a recent seminar.

The Narcotics Law of 2019, which came into effect earlier this year, states that “organisations and individuals who have obtained a license may produce, possess, import and export cannabis for the purpose of treating diseases and other medical conditions. The use of cannabis for study, research and the treatment of patients must be controlled under the care of registered practitioners, while the consumption or sale of cannabis for recreational use is still punishable by law”. 

Under strict guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Public Health and the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, the pilot program started last month at two hospitals in the provinces of Prachinburi and Sakhon Nakhon. Patients here are prescribed cannabis oil for a variety of ailments, such as the nausea and loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy, along with chronic cases of pain.

This year, more than 400 doctors and pharmacists have been trained in prescribing this age-old cure, along with almost 3,000 traditional medicine practitioners, said government officials at the seminar.

For decades now, medical researchers in the West have pointed out the curative properties of chemical compounds like CBD, with California becoming the first American state to lift the ban on medical marijuana in 1996.

Yet the roots of this versatile plant are buried deep in history and folk cures. The strain of the cannabis sativa plant, known as hemp, has been used as a fibre for 10,000 years.  Before the invention of modern paper, printers used its hemp variant to print everything from the Bible to Alice in Wonderland and the American Declaration of Independence.

THREE MILLENNIA IN CHINA

The use of medical marijuana has been chronicled as far back as 2900BC in China, but its popularity in Europe owes a debt to the Irishman, born in 1809. It was Dr William Brooke O’Shaugnessy, who prescribed it to Queen Victoria for menstrual cramps.

Believing that the plant had many other uses, he wrote in a medical journal, “When pure and administered carefully, cannabis is one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” 

In May 2019, the cover of The New York Times magazine showed a gummy bear laden with an extract from the marijuana plant known as CBD, with a list of promising cures that included everything from a possible cure for cancer to alleviating the symptoms of PTSD, brain injuries, depression and insomnia.

Only a decade ago a story like this in such a prestigious publication would have been unthinkable. But as countries around the world move to legalise medical marijuana – and in some cases, like Uruguay and Canada, its recreational cousin – the debate has shifted from the moral to the medicinal.

Across the world, companies have been quick to realise that investing some seed money in this cash crop will yield long-term dividends.

At the recent seminar in Bangkok, Adam Benjamin, director of Medifarm, said his company had already partnered with a firm in Israel, which is a world leader in medical marijuana.

An Australian firm, Medifarm now has its sights set on Thailand, where the company has offered its expertise for free.

“We would like to work with the Thai government on this for free,” Mr Benjamin said.

Medical marijuana, and its many offshoots, have enormous export potential, he said, as more and more countries move to legalise the medicinal and/or recreational use of cannabis products. 

Australian investments in marijuana farming and developing new medicines derived from this plant are surging, he added.

But the tight regulations that govern the use and distribution of such products in Australia have yet to be tested in Thailand. Critics of the new law believe that it’s ripe for exploitation.

To nip such problems in the bud, the Ministry of Public Health is laying the groundwork for a medical cannabis service system. Under the Special Access Scheme, the prescribing of cannabis-derived products will be strictly controlled.

After the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS) came into effect Thailand in 2001 to provide affordable medical care for all, within a decade the program covered almost 98 percent of Thais. 

The supporters of the Narcotics Law of 2019 point to this ongoing success story as auguring well for the Thai government’s first steps into the growing field of medical marijuana.

www.medifarm.com.au

ends 

By Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

PROMISING AN ICONIC cityscape view, atop King Power Mahanakhon, one of Thailand’s tallest towers, Bangkok’s Mahanakhon SkyWalk boasts the country’s highest 360-degree observation deck in the country.

Open since November last year, the city’s latest tourist attraction boasts the highest rooftop bar and the fastest video-themed elevator in the Kingdom, reaching the 74th floor in 50 seconds.

The highlight of the Mahanakhon SkyWalk is undoubtedly a 63sqm glass floor that juts out from the building façade at a dazzling height of 310m above ground level.  

Not for the fainthearted, the glass platform creates a gravity-defying photoshoot location; the ultimate Instagram shot revealing a plunging city visible below the smiling, or perhaps terrified, faces of those who step onto the see-through floor. Fast becoming a viral, must-snap shot, the SkyWalk reflects Bangkok’s reputation as a dizzyingly progressive and artistically dynamic metropolis.

A wide staircase leads from the outdoor rooftop area and observation deck to The Peak, 314m above ground level. Here rooftop bar sundowners come with spectacular sunset views from the highest point across the city that are simply mesmerizing. 

A few levels below, on the 74th floor, is an indoor observation deck with 360-degree vistas, powerful binoculars and Bangkok’s key landmark destinations identified on interactive screens and via a free app, which offers an augmented reality (AR) experience.

Bangkok’s highest postbox is a nice tourist touch with a vending machine selling postcards and stamps to send to loved ones from this urban scenic spot. There is also a Bangkok-themed digital corridor and an upside-down Bangkok-themed ceiling at the attraction’s main entrance.

MODERN MASTERPIECES

The Thai word Mahanakhon translates as ‘great metropolis’, and the mixed-use development tower was designed by award-winning German architect Ole Scheeren.

Located in Bangkok’s CBD, the glassy, pixelated façade is one of the finest examples of contemporary architecture and urban design in the whole of Thailand. 

The building’s distinctive three-dimensional ribbon of architectural ‘pixels’ circle the tower’s full height to create a stunning profile. Special features include projecting glass skyboxes with sweeping views and generous indoor and outdoor spaces with large terraces.

The design was first publically revealed in 2009, with sales officially commencing in 2010 and construction starting in 2011. The smaller retail component opened first, in 2014, while the main tower was topped off and completed in 2016.

Up until IconSiam’s Waterfront Residences broke the record with a height of 317m in 2018, Mahanakhon Tower was officially recognised as the tallest building in the country.

The luxury mixed-use development is also home to the Ritz-Carlton Residences and Mahanakhon CUBE which serves up some of Bangkok’s top restaurants as well as Dean & Deluca’s flagship store and L’Atelier by Michelin star chef and restauranteur Joël Robuchon.

Mahanakhon Square is a 1000sqm space for exhibitions, performances and events. 

Future plans include the world’s first Orient Express hotel, scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2019.

Named Orient Express Mahanakhon Bangkok, the 154-key hotel will feature two signature restaurants, Mott 32 and Mahanathi by David Thompson, an Australian chef known for his expertise in Thai cuisine.

Esteemed French designer Tristan Auer has been tasked with reimagining the Art Deco stylings and plant motifs of the original Orient Express carriages into a modern skyscraper.

www.KingPowerMahanakhon.co.th

ends

By Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

BIOTECHNOLOGY in Thailand has been through more than three decades of development and the country is now regarded by many as being poised to take a lead in the sector.

Today, with its superb infrastructure, substantial scientific capability and strategic location in the centre of the South East Asia region, Thailand is home to many well-established world technology labs and pharmaceutical companies – and is ready to embrace new waves of advanced biotech development.

Becoming a bio-economy leader is also a new ambition of Thai Government, one of 10 targeted growth-engine industries under the new ‘Thailand 4.0’ growth model, which focuses on the concept of inclusive, productive and green growth to enhance the country’s competitiveness and economic development.

Biotech companies in Thailand enjoy a variety of competitive advantages from supporting ecosystems including intellectual property protections and a technically equipped workforce, as well as an abundance of natural resources and rich biological diversity. 

DIVERSE NATURAL RESOURCES

The first key advantage Thailand has, to be a research hub for biotechnology, is the country’s hot and humid climate, which supports tropical ecosystems in which a large variety of plant, animal and microbe species thrive.

The kingdom has about 15,000 species of plants, which account for around 10 percent of the estimated total number of plant species found globally.

Moreover, abundant farmland across the country and a year-round growing season allow agricultural raw materials to be sourced locally at low prices.

Meanwhile, the Thai agricultural sector, the mainstay of the country’s socio-economic foundation, is currently transitioning to ‘Smart Farming’, a key reforming process endorsed by the government to increase the efficiency of agricultural production and enhance cooperation between farmers and the public and private sectors.

R&D INFRASTRUCTURE

Thailand has developed networks of organisations that support research and development in biotech.

Currently, 24 universities across the country have the combined capacity to supply about 7,000 students with a biotechnology background each year.

In addition, well-established research infrastructure, including various pilot plants located in several leading universities across the country, allow biotech companies to scale up their research before commercialising their innovations.

Many of these pilot plants operate as private-public sector partnerships, such as the Agricultural Research Development Agency (ARDA) under the Ministry of Agriculture. 

PUBLIC-PRIVATE SUPPORT

Government and organisational support is provided through the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), which offers government support by acting as a bridge between the requirements of academic research and innovation in the industry.

This occurs through the operation of four national research centres: BIOTEC, MTEC, NANOTEC, and NECTEC, and one technology management centre (TMC).

Thailand Science Park (TSP), the first technology and innovation hub of Thailand, serves as a one-stop service centre to assist both foreign and local companies engaged in scientific and technological research.

TSP is a key hub for research and development where specialists and researchers from industry, academia and NSTDA collaborate to further inspire and stimulate the formation and growth of knowledge-based businesses.

A network of 1,600 full-time researchers and technicians, of which around 400 hold doctorate degrees, can be found at TSP. TMC also provides important support in biotechnology through its Technology Licensing Office (TLO), which is responsible for the licensing of intellectual property.

The recent setting up of the Strategic Talent Center (STC) helps enhance Thailand’s ecosystem for stronger research and development capability.

The centre serves as a platform interacting with the private sector in identifying available specialists or researchers in science and technology to support the private sector in conducting R&D and innovation activities. The STC is actively involved with matching skills and expertise with real demands from the requesting companies.

ENTICING INVESTMENT INCENTIVES

Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) recognises the importance and value of the biotech economy, and offers a wide range of tax and non-tax incentives for projects that meet national development objectives.

Tax incentives for biotechnology companies investing in Thailand include an eight-year exemption from corporate income tax and exemptions from import duties on machinery and raw materials used for manufacturing of export products. 

Non-tax incentives include visa and work permits for experts and permission to own land for promoted activities.

AUSTRALIAN ATTRACTION

To attract Australian SMEs, the board recently approved more incentives for SMEs to cover over 100 business activities and increased the ceiling of corporate income tax (CIT) exemption to up to 200 percent.

These incentives aim to enhance SMEs’ competitiveness in Thailand, including the extension of the scheme's promotional period to December 30, 2019.

The BOI also identified a list of targeted industries for the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi) and the Digital Park Thailand (EECd).

For more information, visit www.boi.go.th or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ends

By Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

TWO YEARS AGO the Thai Government launched ‘Thailand 4.0’, a vision to transform the Thai economy into an innovation-driven one.

As part of this ambitious plan, the Cabinet in principle approved the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Development Project, aimed at revitalising and enhancing the well-known Eastern Seaboard Development Program, which has held the status of a powerhouse for industrial production in Thailand for over 30 years. 

Under this initiative, the Eastern Economic Corridor Office of Thailand has been assigned to drive the country’s investment in uplifting innovation and advanced technology for the future generations. The EEC Development Plan will lead to a significant development and transformation of Thailand’s investment in physical and social infrastructure in the area.

Initially, the EEC project will be implemented in three eastern provinces, namely Chachoengsao, Chonburi and Rayong. The EEC Development Plan consists of two key components – implementing infrastructural development projects and developing targeted industries.

One of Thailand’s key advantages is its central geographical location in ASEAN, acting as gateway to the CLMV group (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam). Key infrastructural development projects include linking the EEC to regional airways in order to raise Thailand to a central hub for aviation and air logistics, and linking transportation of goods to other regions through the development of dual-track railways between China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Cambodia. 

EEC has become Thailand’s flagship investment zone offering business and investment opportunities at an unprecedented scale, as well as ASEAN’s largest investment zone. The Thai Government is offering generous incentives to attract investment covering personal income tax, corporate tax, work permits, land lease and funding for research.

Currently, 10 major industries have been identified as high-potential growth engines for Thailand. These include the automotive industry, the intelligent electronics industry, advanced agriculture and biotechnology, the food processing industry and medical tourism – and, in future, also the digital, robotics and biofuel and biochemical industries.

PROSPECTS FOR AUSTRALIA

Australia's trade and economic relationship with Thailand has grown strongly since the entry into force of the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) on January 1, 2005.

Trade in goods has more than doubled since 2004 [from US$6.8 billion in 2004 to US$18.9 billion in 2017]. 

In 2017, Thailand was Australia’s fifth highest goods import source. Thailand is now also Australia's ninth largest goods and services trading partner, and Thailand’s second-largest in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

Total Thai investment stock in Australia has grown significantly from US$294 million in 2006 to US$3.1 billion in 2017; while Australian investment stocks in Thailand were valued at US$4.5 billion at the end of 2017.

Australia’s key goods exports to Thailand are crude petroleum, gold, aluminum and coal, and Thailand’s key exports to Australia are passenger and goods vehicles. (For example, the Holden Colorado is manufactured in Thailand).

During the first half of 2018, Australia was among the top 10 sources of approved foreign direct investment (FDI) in Thailand and among the top four among western nations – followed by The Netherlands, Switzerland and UK. The approved Australian FDI is worth A$91.7 million.

Given Australia’s position as one of the world’s leading food and agricultural products exporters, the areas which offer Australia strong business opportunities in EEC are biotechnology and food processing. It is also a good match with Thailand as food processing is one of the country’s key exports. 

Thailand is also one of the largest net food-exporting countries in the world and the second in Asia with a food trade balance at a record value of US$16.7 billion in 2016.

The ‘Land of Smiles’ is a major global tourism destination attracting 30 million visitors a year in the past few years, further driving the demand for imported food, beverages and food ingredients to cater to the F&B, hospitality and hotel industries. In sum, prospects in the food processing sector for Australian interests look bright.

Aviation is another sector offering soaring prospects for Australia. Geographically, Thailand is well positioned to serve flights from Australia to Europe and vice versa.

With the expansion of international airports throughout the country, especially U Tapao airport near Pattaya in EEC, Thailand’s capacities to accommodate more international flights seem attractive.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air traffic in Thailand will be amongst the world’s top 10 in the next 20 years. Airbus recently entered into an agreement to form a joint venture with Thai Airways to set up MRO facilities near U-Tapao, while the Alibaba Group signed an MOU with Thailand in April this year to set up an ASEAN logistics centre in the EEC.

Mining and natural resources – key strengths of Australia – will be a good foundation for innovation, particularly in the area of sustainability, and an excellent match for Thailand’s biofuel sector.

MICE AS A DRIVER

To further elevate the EEC into a centre of trade, investment and human resources of the country and the region, attracting national and international conferences, conventions, exhibitions and tradeshows to the area will be an important driver.

To demonstrate the vast potential and preparedness of EEC as the ultimate meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) destination, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) recently organised IMFT2018, in which members of the media from 35 countries were invited to experience and explore the burgeoning MICE ecosystem in Chachoengsao, Chonburi and Rayong. 

During this five-day trip, guests visited various destinations that lend themselves perfectly to MICE events, including Lancaster hotel Bangkok, Nongnooch International Convention and Exhibition Center (NICE) in Pattaya, the Regional Observatory for the Public in Chachoengsao, Vajiravudh Scout Camp in Sriracha and local village Ban Krasae Bon in Rayong (a good example of community-based tourism), as well as world-class hospitality venues like Mytt Beach Hotel Pattaya and Ao Prow Resort on the tropical island of Samed.

This year Thailand also hosted several key MICE events, namely Taiwan Expo 2018, CEBIT ASEAN Thailand 2018 and Future Energy Asia 2018, with many more planned in the EEC in the near future.

Showing a consistent growth throughout in 2018, it is estimated that by the end of this fiscal year, Thailand will have welcomed over 1,327,000 business travellers, generating 124 billion baht (about A$5.3 billion) in revenue.

Alongside increasingly stronger trade and economic ties between the two nations, Australia is a key growth market for Thailand’s MICE industry. Of all long-haul markets outside Asia, Australia was Thailand’s third largest in 2018, followed by the US and France.

In the past five years, Thailand has welcomed an average of 22,000 Australian MICE travellers per year.

Alongside taking part in AIME (Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event), TCEB organises roadshows to Melbourne and Sydney.

“We really value the Australian market,” said Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of TCEB.

www.eeco.or.th

www.businesseventsthailand.com

 

For more information, visit Economic Eastern Corridor (EEC) and Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).

Ends

By Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

IF YOU HAVE EVER dreamed of staying at a wildlife reserve and waking up to a herd of friendly elephants milling around outside your balcony window, this is your jumbo opportunity.

WFFT, the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, just opened a luxury eco-lodge and restaurant, affording visitors a bird eye’s view of one of the centre’s largest elephant forest enclosures. With only 10 guestrooms available, the experience promises to be an exclusive one, as well as a great option for anyone looking to book a unique corporate retreat. 

Spacious and airy, rooms have been designed to fit in with the natural environment, with all the modern amenities one could wish for like air-conditioning, a rain shower and flat screen TV. Using filtered groundwater and solar power, it is run as a genuine eco-lodge with its own tree-planting project for carbon offset.

The eco-lodge is currently offering a soft-opening rate of 4000 baht per night (about A$165), which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals – with Thai and western style options available – are served on a large, rustic-style terrace overlooking the elephant enclosure.

Located near the popular resort town of Hua Hin, a three-hour drive from Bangkok, WFFT was established by Dutch native Edwin Wiek, together with a local mahout – a person who rides and works with elephants – and a second Thai partner in May 2001. Amazing view of elephants and other wildlife from the eco-lodge.

Until then he had been running a successful fashion business in Thailand when disaster struck. During a late-evening drive home after a stressful working day, he got into a serious road accident, which landed him in a several-day coma.

Upon awakening, he had a personal epiphany that his life would be better spent rescuing endangered animals. The first creature to benefit from this newfound resolution was a macaque at the local bar he used to frequent, whom Wiek freed from having to wear costumes and being chained up for the amusement of patrons.

Mr Wiek contends there are too many ‘attractions’ out there where tourists unwittingly contribute to the suffering of animals – elephant riding and posing with tigers, to give a couple of examples.His centre does not contribute to this suffering. All the animals are treated well.

And education is crucial during the half- and full-day tours, allowing visitors a first-hand opportunity to learn about the rescued creatures living at the Wildlife Rescue Center and Elephant Refuge and Education Center.

Mr Wiek often guides travellers around the 92-hectare-large park, sharing colorful “tails” and background information about the rescued animals – which range from maltreated circus animals and orangutans illegally held at zoos, to endangered species kept as pets. 

The former pets – often given respectable English sounding names like Jim, Charlie or Bob by their former Thai owners are – besides a new lease on life – also given a new moniker.

“We’ve decided that any monkey who comes in with a foreign name will be called after a Thai politician,” Mr Wiek quipped.

Besides several large dedicated enclosures where the animals can roam freely until they are rehabilitated and repatriated, the centre also contains a Wildlife Hospital with fulltime veterinarians and vet nurses, the first such facility in Asia.

All in all, to ensure the whole operation runs smoothly, the centre employs some 92 staff members and 60 volunteers to take care of the 700 creatures inhabiting the sanctuary.

In spite of overseeing all the staff and volunteers, Mr Wiek continues to play a pivotal role in Thailand’s wildlife activism, serving as an honorary advisor to a parliamentary committee which focuses on the creation of better laws to protect wildlife in Thailand.

This has resulted in some groundbreaking legislation like The Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act of 2014 to “strengthen suppression of the illegal trade of African elephant ivory”. 

The act marked the first time in Thai history that a non-native species, the African elephant, was listed as a protected species. Of course, much more work needs to be done in this regard, as Thailand remains a transit point for illegal shipments of elephant tusks bound from Africa to China, where ivory is still in great demand. 

One of WFFT’s main benefactors is Joan Pearson, the wife of the former CEO of Reader’s Digest Australia, who visits the centre in Thailand three times a year.

Thanks to her fundraising efforts in her native Sydney, enough money was collected to rescue 15 elephants and help purchase a piece of land large enough for a 5ha-large forest where some of the rescued elephants are free to roam.

Solely funded by private donations without the support of governments or NGOs, Mr Wiek is aware that in order to achieve long-term sustainability, the wildlife sanctuary must generate independent revenue streams.

The eco lodge and restaurant will provide an important source of income besides the revenue streams generated from operating the guided tours and volunteers who pay to volunteer at WFFT.

Mr Wiek expects the addition to substantially contribute towards the operational costs of the new wildlife enclosures.

“In this day and age it’s important for charities to be able to fund themselves through commercial enterprise and not just rely on donations,” Mr Wiek explained.

https://ilovephants.org

https://www.wfft.org

ends

Contact Us

 

PO Box 2144
MANSFIELD QLD 4122