By JAKRAWAN SALAYTOO
When the team first spotted the group camping in an off-limits area this past weekend, officials initially just offered some safety advice, briefed them about the rules and recommended that they immediately leave the area.
“But group members kind of ignored our advice. They appeared defiant and also stubbornly insisted that they would not move, citing fears for their safety if they had to relocate during the night,” Wichian Shinwong, a senior official at the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, said yesterday. “That aroused our suspicions.”
He said his team then started searching the area near the camp to determine if the group was hiding anything.
“That’s when we discovered animal carcasses and guns,” said Wichian, who has since become nationally acclaimed for arresting such a high-profile suspect.
After evidence revealed the group might have engaged in illegal activities, some of them appeared to attempt to offer bribes, he added.
“Group members tried to negotiate. They tried to check if we would agree to take an offer,” Wichian said. He added that Premchai’s associates described him as the top executive of a leading firm.
“We don’t care who he is. We only know that if he violates the laws, he will have to face legal actions,” Wichian said. He added that he did not want to take even a single baht from Premchai because he had his own personal dignity.
Just as the scandal has heaped bad publicity on Premchai, it has portrayed Wichian as a hero.
“Thank you for giving me recognition. But please don’t forget that this is the work of all 200 officials in the field,” he said, sharing credit with his team members.
Asked whether Premchai’s case had caused him any problems, Wichian said he had not faced any threats. “I have also received moral support from the minister,” he said, without elaborating.
Premchai’s group is the first to have openly entered the wildlife sanctuary, he added.
“In other cases, it’s villagers sneaking in to fill their hungry stomachs. It’s not for pleasure,” Wichian said.