By PIYAPORN WONGRUANG
PREMCHAI KARNASUTA, president of Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD), one of Thailand’s largest construction companies, conceded in the arrest record received by The Nation that rifles and ammunition found during his capture in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary on Sunday belonged to him.
The seven-page record written at the Thung Yai office and dated February 6 was signed by Premchai and three of his associates, who were also arrested at the scene.
The document was also signed by Thung Yai chief Wichian Shinwong and seven of his subordinates who joined in the arrest.
The record noted that Premchai and his associates acknowledged that they had been informed of their rights, including the rights to remain silent and consult a lawyer.
According to the record, Premchai told wildlife rangers when asked that he was the president of ITD. Along with his three associates, he had travelled in a light brown Landcruiser pickup truck, which he owned, from Bangkok to Thung Yai on a leisure trip.
The tycoon also said he knew about regulations regarding visits to the sanctuary.
One of his associates, Yong Dodkreau, told the rangers that he was a driver for Premchai and had worked for him for more than 30 years, while another suspect, Thanee Thummas, said he was a restaurant owner and had known Premchai for five years.
The last person, Nathee Riamsaen, said she was Premchai’s chef, having worked for him for five years, and had travelled along on the trip to cook for them.
The group was found camping deep inside the wildlife sanctuary near the Maharat ranger base.
According to the record, which was provided by an anonymous source linked to the incident, unidentified rangers travelling along the Maharat-Thikong route encountered the four people camping by Huai Pachi stream at about 1pm on Sunday.
The rangers became “suspicious [the suspects] posed threats to the forest and wildlife there”, according to the record. The campsite was ecologically sensitive and closed to visitors, so the rangers stopped them and asked about their activities, while informing Wichian about the encounter before leaving the scene.
Wichian then ordered his deputy, Piyapong Suebsen, to check the area. When Piyapong arrived there at about 4pm, Thanee was gone but the other three remained at the site.
Piyapong’s team searched the camp and found fishing rods, prompting the rangers to ask them to leave the area because camping and fishing in the area was prohibited. However, Premchai tried to negotiate to stay longer in the forest as it was getting dark.
Piyapong then sent rangers to search for the third man before a gunshot was heard in the distance. The rangers then encountered Thanee, who was armed with a rifle, which he was pointing in various directions.
About 400 metres away from the camp, Piyapong then found spent ammunition, the carcasses of wild animals and packs of salt hidden in the rocks near the stream.
After being informed of the find, Wichian went to the site, arriving at about 6pm, and conducted a thorough search of the camp.
Besides Thanee’s rifle and ammunition, the team found cooking equipment, iceboxes, knives, and the carcasses of a Kalij pheasant and a muntjac deer in iceboxes, with some pieces of meat having already been cooked.
Both animals are protected under the wildlife conservation law.
Wichian then searched around the camp and found more rifles covered in the grass, including a Steyr-Mannlicher-M loaded with ammunition. Boxes designed to contain firearms were also found nearby.
As it grew dark, the team of rangers decided to bring the four to their office, but due to the rugged terrain, they did not arrive until 2am.
Wichian then returned to the camp and found a black leopard skin and skull under a bush near the camp. Its carcass and meat was also found in a plastic bag covered in the grass nearby, and more rifles and ammunitions were also found.
Wichian concluded in the arrest record that the ranger team considered the behaviour of Premchai and
his associates, including camping in a prohibited area, bringing guns and ammunition into the area and poaching in the sanctuary, violated the wildlife conservation law.
His team listed eight offences under the conservation law and one additional offence – the possession of weapons and ammunition in public – in their request for police to file charges against the four.
Premchai yesterday still denied all the charges, while police who searched his house found a number of rifles and ivory.