More unproven allegations about elephants being eaten on Phuket are being carried by the non-sceptical international media, simply copying the Associated Press report - in the Daily Mail, Britain, the headline reads: Growing taste for elephant meat in Thailand raises risk of extinction claims, horrified animal welfare group. And there's Time magazine's headline: New Extinction Risk to Thai Elephants. One small problem . . . there's no evidence. But that won't stop the world's follow-the-herd media. Or follow-the-herd readers.
PHUKET: A brother and sister who run a law consulting firm on Phuket protested their innocence today as the ''elephant-eating'' myth about Phuket achieved international prominence.
Two Thai newspapers yesterday named Prasit Wathanpumchoo and his sister Jaruwan as being suspects in the poaching of national park elephants for the dinner table.
Despite the couple's denials and other denials of a connection to Phuket restaurants, the furore was carried further today by the Associated Press in an article that began:
''A new taste for eating elephant meat - everything from trunks to sex organs - has emerged in Thailand and could pose a new threat to the survival of the species.''
The article, appearing today in newspaper and television coverage all over the US, Australia and elsewhere, alleges that Phuket is the destination for elephant meat for ''human consumption'' by tourists at restaurants.
The AP report has been spread widely despite regular denials in the Thai media that there is any kind of market for eating elephant.
Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha said he had never heard of elephant being eaten on Phuket. An investigation has failed to substantiate the claim.
Despite lack of evidence, the ''elephant-eating'' story continues to appeal to some elements in the media and is being circulated far and wide.
Khun Prasit said today that he and his sister were shocked when they were named as suspects yesterday in two publications.
Khun Prasit said his family owned a rubber plantation near the national park, where his Phuket-plate Suzuki Vitari was spotted.
''I have no connection to restaurants and no connection of any kind with restaurants,'' said Khun Prasit, 41, who like almost every Thai respects the elephant as a national symbol and would never eat one.
Police investigating the elephant deaths at the national park examined his car on January 7 and found nothing, Khun Prasit said today. ''I went to the police to make sure that I was above suspicion,'' he told the Phuket media at Provincial Hall in Phuket City.
Khun Prasit said he planned to stop off in Bangkok on the way to the family rubber plantation this weekend to let senior police know at Royal Thai Police headquarters that he has nothing to do with the case.
Reeling in what appears to be a distasteful myth will be even more difficult now that Associated Press has circulated claims that not only are tourists on Phuket eating elephants, but the ''new taste'' could ''pose a new threat to the survival of the species.''
The ABC network television news site posted the article yesterday under the headline: ''AP Exclusive: New Taste for Thai Elephant Meat''
In Australia today, the Herald-Sun, largest circulating newspaper in the country, carried the article under the headline: ''Poachers get a taste for elephant meat.''
In the New York Daily News, the headline read: ''Thai elephants might become extinct because too many people are eating them.''
Scores of other news outlets around the globe carried the report.