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Star elephant beats mahout to death at Chiang Mai Zoo

A well-known male elephant at Chiang Mai Zoo, Phlai Ekasit, that appeared in action movie Ong Bak starring Panom Tony Jaa Yeeram and other Thai and international films, hit a mahout with its trunk, killing him instantly, on Monday morning (Nov 27), police said.

Eyewitnesses told police that the incident occurred while Somsak Riangngern, 55, the elephant's handler for over 10 years, was giving him a banana tree in a kraal inside the zoo and trying to walk him to take a bath. The elephant suddenly turned to the mahout and hit him many times with his trunk, killing him in front of his wife, Mrs Jampa.

Zoo officials were later able to keep the elephant under control. It was initially believed the 32-year-old pachyderm went wild because he was is in rut. However, the actual cause of the incident has yet to be determined by veterinarians.

Somsak's body was sent to Maharat Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital. A native of Surin province, Somsak would be taken to his home province for a funeral.

Mrs Jampa, 50, the mahout's wife, said Phlai Ekasit was usually a lovable and kind animal that had appeared in several films. He was popular among tourists who like to feed and take pictures with him.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)