By The Nation
The arrest of Watcharachai has led to his temporary dismissal from the civil service pending the results of a disciplinary probe and criminal investigation.
The temporary-dismissal order, along with the setting up of a serious disciplinary investigation committee, was issued on Monday by Kanchanaburi Governor Jeerakiat Bhumsawat.
The governor also had two Dan Makham Tia defence volunteers, Sakan Kaenglaung and Anusorn Reun-ngam, suspended from work without pay pending the results of the probes.
Ten men and two women, who protest their innocence, face six charges, including taking weapons for hunting into a forest without permission, conspiring to hunt and attempting to hunt wildlife animals, and having a wildlife carcass in their possession without permission.
Police have opposed their release on bail.
Park officials had on Sunday checked on Watcharachai’s group, which was using six off-road vehicles that had emerged from the forest and which matched officials’ description in connection with contravention of a park rule.
The group was initially accused of violating the park’s rule by staying overnight in Khao Pla Noi forest on Saturday, but they later faced arrest over more serious charges after one of the vehicles, reportedly driven by Anusorn, was found to have contained a rifle with a silencer, two other guns, ammunition, and a binturong carcass.
Park chief Panatchakorn Phothibandhit quoted the 41-year-old Watcharachai – who police later found to be carrying a 9mm pistol and 16 bullets – as claiming that his group had visited Wat Muang Tao Dam in Thong Pha Phum district to make merit and stay overnight at the temple, and that Anusorn had bought the wildlife carcass from a villager on the way.
Panatchaokorn said his team would later inspect the campsite, located 70 kilometres from the park office, for more evidence.
Early this year, Italian-Thai Development president Premchai Karnasuta was also arrested in Kanchanaburi for alleged poaching.
Premchai faces several charges after being found at the Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary with the carcasses of a Kalij pheasant, a barking deer, and a black leopard nearby.