Investigators close in on Premchai hunt case
Two pellets tipped to be solid evidence
Investigators probing the wildlife poaching case involving four suspects including Premchai Karnasuta, president of Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD), are now focusing on two pellets found in the carcass of a Kalij pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos) seized for inspection in the investigation.
The pheasant’s carcass was among a total of 10 dead wild animals seized for inspection in relation to the illegal hunting case.
Thong Pha Phum district police and the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi took the animals to be X-rayed at a state-run hospital on Wednesday.
Mr Premchai, 63, was arrested and later released on bail for allegedly hunting wildlife in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary on Feb 4. Thong Pha Phum police have pressed multiple charges including poaching against Mr Premchai and three other members of his party. All denied the allegations.
After X-rays showed two pellets in the pheasant carcass, investigators plan to have them removed so they can be used to compare with weapons seized from the suspects, Pol Col Wutthiphong Yenchit, chief of the Thong Pha Phum police station said. If the pellets match the seized guns, police will have solid evidence to prove the suspects had illegally killed the protected animal, he said, adding it appeared the ammunition came from a shotgun.
Meanwhile, Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, head of the the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation’s special taskforce centre on forest protection, known as the Phraya Suea unit, said his team found and retrieved two bones believed to be those of a missing right leg of the black leopard carcass seized for inspection.
The bones were found in a creek near an area at where Mr Premchai and the other suspects were found camping on the night before they were detained, Mr Chaiwat said.
Mr Chaiwat said the two bones are likely to be key pieces of evidence to prove that Mr Premchai and the other suspects had removed the bones when they slaughtered the black leopard to prepare its meat for cooking.
If a DNA test later confirms the bones belong to the seized black leopard carcass, police will have more solid evidence to prove the suspects’ guilt, Mr Chaiwat said.
He said his team was inspecting some pictures of a male black leopard captured on Dec 23, 2016 on a camera installed about 100 metres from where the suspects were based. The black leopard captured in the footage is believed to be the same one killed by the suspects, he said.
Counter-Corruption Division (CCD) commander Kamol Rianracha, meanwhile said investigators are compiling evidence to support their request to issue a summons for Mr Premchai to answer a bribery charge, the 11th charge to be pressed against him in the case, as the police probe continues to widen. The probe into Mr Premchai’s alleged act of bribing a state official wouldn’t take long because the case wasn’t complicated, Pol Maj Gen Kamol said.
Investigators had questioned those who had brought the bribery allegation against Mr Premchai, including Wichien Chinnawong, head of the Thungyai Nareasuan wildlife sanctuary’s western side.
Meanwhile, Pichnat Phlaiduang, president of a network of natural resources and environmental protection volunteers in 77 provinces, yesterday submitted a petition to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) calling for tough legal action against those suspects in Mr Premchai’s wildlife hunting case.
Hospital staff scan a leopard skin while they inspect carcasses of wild animals seized in the poaching case involving Premchai Karnasuta.