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Suspects in forest case get bail after additional charge slapped on them

Oct 09. 2018
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By SUPHOT KAEWKASI
THE NATION

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THE HEAD of Kanchanaburi’s Sai Yok National Park yesterday submitted more evidence to police to file an additional charge against former deputy chief of Dan Makham Tia district, Watcharachai Sameerak, and 10 others for conspiracy to fire a gun in a national park.

The 11 suspects, who have been accused of camping out overnight and shooting a binturong in the park over the weekend, maintained their innocence. 

Following the filing of the additional charge under the Firearms Act, they were sent in the afternoon to appear in front of a court for the first 12-day detention order. Overall, they face 10 conspiracy charges. 

The court judge later approved the release on bail for Bt200,000 in cash or collateral for each of the 11 suspects.

Park chief Panatchakorn Phothibandhit presented police the hair and jaw believed to be of the slain binturong and reportedly collected in the campsite area during the officials’ scene inspection on Monday. He later requested police permission to take these items to the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP)’s lab to test whether they were from the slain binturong. 

Panatchakorn also said officials had collected 31 spent cartridges near the area where they arrested the suspects, which convinced police that the suspects had tossed them while emerging from the forest. This was deemed sufficient grounds to file the additional charge of conspiracy to fire a gun in a national park. 

Forensic police would later check which guns were used and who fired them, Panatchakorn said. 

He dismissed the suspects’ claim of securing a senior official’s permission to camp in the forest as untrue.

Meanwhile, DNP spokesman Somphot Maneerat said officials, during their visit on Monday to the forest area, especially near the Wat Tao Dam monastic centre where the suspects had claimed to have stayed overnight, had found the lower jaw of a binturong, bones, a cooking pot and empty beer cans. Officials also retrieved spent cartridges from a spot one kilometre away from the place of the suspects’ arrest, he said, vowing DNP officials would work with police to bring the wildlife hunters to justice.

Binturongs – protected by the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, B.E. 2535 (1992) – are near extinction, he said. The animals, also known as ‘bear cats’, were driven by human activities to retreat deep into the fertile forest such as this area where the 11 suspects had allegedly camped and killed the animal.

The arrest on Sunday also led to the temporary dismissal from civil service of the 41-year-old deputy chief of Kanchanaburi’s Dan Makham Tia district office, Watcharachai Sameerak, and suspension from work without pay of two fellow campers who are defence volunteers.

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