Award of Excellence Brent Lewin Freelance
An elephant scratches its head on a wall at an abandoned housing development in Bang Bua Thong, Thailand. Many of the elephants are covered in white concrete residue from scratching themselves on the walls of the unfinished homes. The project was abandoned when the developer went bankrupt during the Asian Economic Crisis in 1997. What remain are concrete foundations where many Thais squat and live for free. In one section 5 rice-growing families from Buriram Province stay with their 10 domesticated elephants. Elephants, revered symbols of Thailand’s glorified past, have long walked side by side with the monarchy and common farmers alike. The indispensable role of elephants in Thai society has been captured in countless tales and works of art. Once a symbol of honour, dignity and the engine of rural development, many of these once proud creatures have been left on the fringes of Thailand’s modern economy and have come to represent the failures and inequity of economic development.