Saturday, August 15, 2020

Premchai linked to crime scene weapons as police try to reassure public

Feb 28. 2018
File photo
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By PIYAPORN WONGRUANG
THE NATION

TWO RIFLES and a shotgun found at a wildlife crime scene belong to construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, while the shotgun has been linked to the site where an endangered black leopard was killed, Pol General Jarumporn Suramanee, an adviser to a new panel investigating the case, said yesterday.

However, Premchai, president of Italian-Thai Development Ltd, had not yet been identified as the shooter, Jarumporn said.

Jarumporn, a former commissioner at the Office of Police Forensic Science and an adviser to the Royal Thai Police, said during a press briefing that authorities had checked registration documents for firearms and found that they all belonged to Premchai. 

Spent shells found at scene in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary where the leopard was killed were fired from Premchai’s shotgun, he added.

Jarumporn also downplayed concerns that Premchai would escape charges of poaching and other related crimes, citing evidence found already that he said was strong enough to prosecute the case.

However, he would not confirm whether Premchai would be indicted on all the charges, including the most critical of poaching and possessing carcasses and remains of protected species. 

Police so far have charged Premchai and his three companions with nine joint offences carrying varying penalties.

Jarumporn said police would continue to analyse evidence to be able to forward the case for indictment, but added that some suspects might not be charged with all the offences depending on the evidence.

Deputy police chief Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul earlier told the press conference that police had not found identifiable fingerprints on the shotgun and there were only traces of DNA, prompting concerns among the public that the culprits could evade responsibility.

Premchai and his three companions were detained on February 4 in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary by wildlife rangers led by their chief, Wichian Shinwong. 

They were then officially charged by Thong Pha Phum police, which initiated a police investigation.

Under police procedures, the suspects can be subjected to a maximum period of 84 days of interrogation, as the offences carry penalties of as much as 10 years in jail. But every 12 days, police must file a new court request for extension of the detention period, even though the suspects are free on bail. 

The accused so far have not shown up but have been represented by their lawyers.

Premchai and his alleged accomplices are scheduled to meet Srivara for questioning on Monday. Police have warned that they will ask the court to revoke their bail if they fail to report.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Surasak Kanjanarat assured the public that there was sound evidence against the suspects and authorities would initially push for prosecution on all the nine charges confirmed by a panel he had appointed. 

“We feel the same sense of urgency as you. The government has instructed us to take it seriously so we will proceed with this case in all earnestness,” Surasak said.

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