Thailand Police Search for Sri Lankan man after viral Bentley Lion ride

Thai authorities have detained a woman and are on the hunt for a Sri Lankan man after a video of a pet lion riding in a Bentley in Pattaya went viral on TikTok. The footage showed the chained lion cub seated in a white, convertible Bentley, driven by the Sri Lankan, now identified as an acquaintance of the woman, and currently sought by police for charges related to the incident. The Sri Lankan is reported to have left Thailand following the event.

The owner of the nine-month-old lion cub, Sawangjit Kosoongnern, is under scrutiny for the illegal transport of the lion, which was seen with a collar, casually resting inside the luxurious vehicle as it navigated Pattaya’s streets. In Thailand, while it’s permissible to own lions, strict registration requirements exist, which Ms. Sawangjit allegedly disregarded. She is accused of purchasing the lion without the proper legal checks from a seller in Nakhon Pathom province, leading to illegal transfer and ownership.

Ms. Sawangjit faces charges for the illegal possession of a protected wild animal, risking a year in prison and a fine up to 100,000 baht ($2,800; £2,200). Authorities are also pursuing charges against the Sri Lankan for exposing a controlled wild animal in public, a violation carrying a potential six-month jail sentence and a 50,000 baht fine. The seller who facilitated the lion’s delivery to Ms. Sawangjit is likewise facing legal action for unauthorized animal transportation, highlighting the complex legal aftermath of the lion’s viral joyride.