By THE NATION
PREMCHAI KARNASUTA, the president of one of Thailand’s largest construction companies, has been charged along with three other people for illegal poaching in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary.
Premchai, president of Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD), and three other people – identified as Yong Dodkreau, Nathee Riamsaen and Thanee Thummas – were charged yesterday afternoon with six offences under two separate laws, which included illegal poaching, possession of protected animals carcasses and harvesting forest products in a national park.
They were sent to Thong Pha Phum Provincial Court for detention.
The court later released them on Bt150,000 bail per person.
According to a report by wildlife sanctuary officers, the head of the country’s top construction company and his companions entered the wildlife sanctuary in Kanchanaburi’s Thong Pha Phum district on Saturday. They planned a two-day, one-night camping trip in Thung Yai Naresuan forest on the 30-kilometre Tinuai-Tikhong-Maharat route.
However, forest rangers on Sunday found that the group had camped in a restricted area in the wildlife sanctuary.
Premchai and the three others were arrested at the scene after rangers found three guns, ammunition and carcasses of protected wild animals, including a black leopard, a Kalij pheasant and a barking deer.
It was reported that the carcass of the black leopard had already been skinned, which indicated that it was collected as a trophy.
The source said Premchai was a guest of an executive at the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP) and it was not the first time that he had visited Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary.
The DNP’s Wildlife Conservation Office director Kanjana Nitaya admitted that the group had contacted her to ask for permission to enter the wildlife sanctuary. However, she denied that she knew Premchai personally and said all visitors to national parks nationwide were considered “guests” of all DNP officers.
“We are surprised by this issue, because we did not think that a man of very high position would conduct such a crime, so there was no search for guns before they entered the wildlife sanctuary,” she said.
“Moreover, we don’t have enough manpower or the equipment to search all vehicles and visitors to our national parks, so we only conduct searches on suspicious groups.”
The source said the case was progressing slowly because the suspects had only been transferred to police yesterday, even though they had been arrested on Saturday. The case was considered very sensitive and the DNP had to prepare the evidence very carefully, the source said.
Kanjana did not directly say that Premchai was guilty of poaching in the sanctuary, but said he had been arrested at the scene and it was up to police to determine whether he would be charged.
Thammarat Wongsopha, the National Park Division 3 (Ban Pong) director, said Premchai’s group had asked for permission to enter the sanctuary last Friday to enter the following day. They also entered the forest before permission was granted, making their journey illegal from the beginning.
DNP director-general Thanya Netithamkul said officers had found firearms and wild animal carcasses at Premchai’s campsite, but had not seen him shoot the animals, so there had to be further investigation before charges are pressed.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha also said people found guilty in the case would be punished.
Premchai’s lawyer Withoon Yimprai said his client denied all charges against him by saying that the guns were not his and he had not hunted the animals.
The price of ITD shares dropped over the past five consecutive days. It had plunged to Bt 3.72 per share, down 3.36 per cent, yesterday.