Thai deputy PM charged over export of 100 tigers to China
A Thai deputy prime minister was charged Wednesday in connection with the export to China of 100 tigers, an endangered species protected by international law, the attorney general's office told AFP.
Plodprasop Suraswadi approved the export of tigers from Sriracha Tiger Zoo -- a popular tourist attraction a few hours from Bangkok -- to a Chinese breeding firm in 2002. He was the head of the forestry department at the time.
He was charged under an article in Thai law which includes the "abuse of power, failing to carry out his duty and/or corruption," according to Teerayhut Mapame of the attorney general's office.
It was unclear why the charges were being brought a decade later.
Plodprasop, who became one of the nation's deputy prime ministers in November, admitted sending the endangered creatures to China but denied the charges against him.
"I'm not wrong as I have always performed my duty. Sending the tigers to China was not wrong," Plodprasop told reporters after being granted bail of $4,000.
"If anyone accuses me of wrongdoing, then I ask them to bring evidence to prove how it caused any damage."
Under international laws the trade in tigers and tiger parts is strictly banned, except for non-commercial reasons such as scientific research.
The zoo at the centre of the controversy is home to 400 Bengal tigers, according to its website, allowing thousands of tourists each year to get close to the creatures. It holds shows in which tigers jump through flaming hoops.
Thailand is one of just 13 countries hosting fragile tiger populations -- estimated at fewer than 300 in the wild -- and is a hub of international smuggling.
Worldwide, numbers are estimated to have fallen to only 3,200 tigers from approximately 100,000 a century ago.
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