By SUPOJ KAEWKASEE
President Premchai Karnasuta, his close aide Yong Dotkrau, driver Thanee Thummart, and cook Natee Riemsaen showed up in court in Thong Pha Phum district. They are out on bail after being arrested by forest rangers in Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary in early February at their campsite. Seized from the site were the remains of a butchered black leopard and other protected wild animals as well as rifles.
They are facing six charges relating to poaching in the wildlife sanctuary, which carry jail terms and fines. Premchai and Yong are also charged with attempted bribery.
The four had been freed on bail of Bt150,000 each.
The court yesterday increased the bail amount for Premchai, Yong and Natee to Bt400,000 each. They will also need court approval to travel abroad.
They have been ordered to appear before the court on May 21.
It was reported that the four defendants denied charges of colluding to kill the leopard.
Pol Lt-Colonel Amnart Sujaritchai, the deputy Thong Pha Phum public prosecutor, asked the public to have faith in the justice system, saying the process will be transparent and as per the law.
His comments seemed to be aimed at assuaging public anger that Premchai, a billionaire and an influential businessman, may be able to evade prosecution due to his strong connections with those within government.
His listed firm has won concessions from governments for many years. The public has started a series of campaigns to ensure that Premchai is prosecuted for his alleged offences and that death of the big cat will not be in vain.
Speaking to reporters later, Premchai insisted on his innocence but declined to answer queries on whether he had shot the leopard.