Has anyone been to the Elephant Valley-Thailand Refuge? Are they reputable?
Be sure you explore carefully the program (not just the camp) you are signing up for before committing. "volunteering" comes in two forms, voluntourism and actual volunteering.
The former, Voluntourism, takes the form of tour package with meals, lodgings, transport and activities paid for, with the activities being hands on experiences with the care of the elephants. As long as you have paid for everything, then it falls under a tourism entry for Immigration. But if you get anything for free, even something as simple as a lunch, then it falls under Volunteering.
The later, Volunteering, covers any programs for which you receive any form of compensation such as lodging, meals, transport, etc. To participate you need to obtain a Non-Imm Type O Volunteer visa at home, then a work permit when you get here. If the organization claims otherwise or won't get you a work permit, time to explore other options.
You will find bloggers who claim they did it without permits, etc. But are you willing to risk being caught, being deported and having that deportation stamped in your passport?Edited: 10:25 pm, August 22, 2019
Yes. I recently did a day trip here. Stunning property, are linked to the Mondulkari Project in Cambodia. They were very strict, observing from a distance and moving around the property but not near the elephants.
Small herd, lovely and maintained property. I loved my visit, please note, I was not volunteering, just a visitor.
#3 " They were very strict, observing from a distance and moving around the property but not near the elephants." There are numerous reviews of tourists feeding the elephants hand to mouth. Not strict at all.
#2 no doubt legally correct but not how things work in real-life Thailand. You will struggle to find any news reports of even one person deported for working in tourism-associated volunteering programmes here. Thailand is not a police state like the western world, they concentrate on actual policing so it's pointless getting into technicalities of laws that will never be enforced.
OP there are 3 things that annoy me about tourism in northern Thailand. One of them is gawking at hill tribes. The other 2 are what you are doing - paying to volunteer (it's not volunteering; this is a silly buzzword; if you pay to do it it is a tour - just normal tourism) and messing about with wild animals kept in captivity primarily to generate revenue for the owners. Go and see elephants where they belong, in the wild e.g. Kui Buri National Park.
"Thailand is not a police state like the western world, they concentrate on actual policing so it's pointless getting into technicalities of laws that will never be enforced."
That is just one incredible oxymoron!