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The Commerce Ministry, coconut farmers and monkey school owners have dismissed claims by an animal rights group that monkeys trained to pick coconuts were maltreated and announced plans to take foreign diplomats on a visit to see the monkeys at work for themselves.
Boonyarit Kalayanamit, permanent secretary for commerce, said the monkey owners did not abuse or exploit the animals which have been humanely trained to pick coconuts.
“However, the ministry is ready to invite foreign diplomats to visit coconut plantations and see how the monkeys pick coconuts so they will realise this is not animal cruelty [as claimed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta)],” Mr Boonyarit said.
He also said he has instructed commercial attaches in Thai embassies overseas to provide an explanation to retailers in foreign countries.
He added the ministry will also discuss the issue with the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to find further solutions.
Pramual Pongthawaradej, a Democrat Party MP for Prachuap Khiri Khan, who chairs a House subcommittee tackling the falling price of coconuts, said the group has asked operators of coconut milk plants to justify their practices to Peta.
The subcommittee has also asked the Department of Agriculture to give details regarding the use of monkeys to pick coconuts, Mr Pramual said.
Somjai Sae Kow, the owner of a school which trains the monkeys in Surat Thani’s Kanchanadit district, said the practice of capturing monkeys from the wild to pick coconuts ceased a long time ago.
Currently, monkeys are bred and raised before being trained, Ms Somjai said. She also denied claims the monkeys are forced to pick up to 1,000 coconuts a day, adding the monkeys do not work every day.
Coconut-picking monkeys are mostly males and their abilities vary, she said, adding the owner of the monkey receives 2 baht per a coconut picked.
“Foreigners may not understand our livelihood. Also, humans are not built to climb up a coconut tree to pick fruit. They will be at risk, compared to monkeys which have the natural ability to do so,” she said.
Chaowalit Chusaneh, an owner of coconut-picking monkeys in Surat Thani’s Muang district, brushed aside claims of inhumane treatment.
“The current batch of monkeys working for us were bred from previous generations.
“There is no cruelty. Actually, they are looked after well. They are fed well with rice, milk, and fruit three times a day. They are treated like family members,” Mr Chaowalit said.
Read more at https://expatlifeinthailand.com/news-and-event/govt-backs-monkey-business/
Source: Expat Life Thailand