An Israeli tourist, Yoram Ben-Hamo, was convicted last Saturday for kidnapping a baby elephant in Thailand and holding it hostage.
The incident occurred during a police chase after Ben-Hamo in a village south of Bangkok. Ben-Hamo, who, according to the police was probably drunk, was on his way to the capital when he crashed into three vehicles and injured a motorcyclist. He then fled the scene. The police were called to the place of the accident and started a chase after him.
During his getaway, he picked up a knife from a merchant, grabbed a baby elephant from a yard in the neighborhood and warned the police that if they did not leave him alone he would harm the elephant.
Having called in a hostage-negotiation team, the police eventually offered Ben-Hamo a cigarette and he was then captured while lighting it. The elephant was returned home unscathed.
At his investigation, Ben-Hamo said that he had lost his way from Pattaya to Bangkok. After hitting the other cars he was afraid he would be arrested; he left his car and ran into the woods where he found the elephant. He decided to hold it hostage to avoid being arrested.
The media in Thailand has criticized the court for the light punishment Ben-Hamo received for the severe crime of endangering an elephant, the national symbol of Thailand: 500 baht (NIS 60, $15)
Ran Ezer, Bangkok contributed to the report