An association of racehorse owners in Nakhon Ratchasima province has taken a clear stance against an order by the Department of Livestock Development that they get their horses vaccinated against African horse sickness (AHS).
AHS is a highly infectious and deadly disease caused by the African horse sickness virus. Since March, over 500 horses in Thailand have died due to the illness.
On Wednesday, Sunthon Suwannachat, the acting president of the association, said members were holding out against the order because the department could not clearly answer owners' questions about whether the vaccine works in preventing AHS and whether it might inadvertently kill their horses.
"We've seen horses in Pak Chong district die after vaccination … many horses have died," he said.
Those who had rushed to get their horses vaccinated are now left with no other choice but to follow whatever the livestock development authorities instruct, he added.
"Because our horses have remained healthy, we believe we can prevent them from catching the disease. So we won't get them vaccinated."
Mr Sunthon said he had discussed the issue with other racehorse owner associations in provinces such as Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Chiang Mai and all supported his association's stance.
He also urged Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to tackle the problem at its root cause -- by bringing those who triggered this outbreak to justice.
The government should figure out where the outbreak surfaced by investigating who was importing infected zebras into the country and how infected animals could get through the animal health screening process.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said an epidemiological investigation into the cause of the AHS outbreak was underway. There was insufficient evidence to conclude imported zebras were possible carriers of the disease, said the department.
Nonetheless, imports of giraffes and zebras have been prohibited, while AHS containment measures are being implemented in affected areas.
The department's office in Nakhon Ratchasima is surveying the population of horses affected by the outbreak and collecting farm specimens for testing. Any movement of giraffes, horses, donkeys and mules in Nakhon Ratchasima are strictly prohibited.