Ethnic man says he was ordered to take officials hunting

Mon ethnic Tata, black shirt, is taken into Sai Yok National Park for a re-enactment of the poaching that allegedly involved an assistant district chief in Kanchanaburi province, on Wednesday. (Photo by Piyarach Chongcharoen)

KANCHANABURI: A forest temple caretaker accused of poaching has told park rangers that two Thai men claiming to be government officials ordered him to take them bearcat hunting in Sai Yok National Park.

The rangers on Wednesday took the man, an ethnic Mon named only as Tata, to the place where he said the poaching occurred.

They quoted him as admitting he shot a bearcat, but said two men in the group led by Watcharachai Sameerak, who was then still assistant chief of Dan Makham Tia district, ordered him to do it.

He had to follow their orders because he was an immigrant and was afraid of being arrested.

One of the two men gave him a gun, and they spotlighted and then collected the animal he shot, Tata, a caretaker at Tao Dam monastery, told them.

Park rangers said the bearcat was possibly eating ripe fruit in a banyan tree, 10-12 metres above the ground, when it was shot. The carcass was then butchered beside a stream where the group camped, and they prepared a meal. 

The rangers said they also found a .22 bullet casing about 300 metres from the 12 accused poachers' campsite. 

Mr Tata was quoted as saying that was where the bearcat was shot.

They also came across a sack on the roadside about one kilometre from there. It contained three parts from a dead bearcat, weighing 4.3 kilogrammes in all, and four dead giant mountain frogs.

Mr Watcharachai is one of 12 suspects charged with illegal hunting after they were stopped as they left the park on Sunday. Rangers searched their vehicles and found a silenced .22 rifle, a pistol, ammunition and four severed bearcat paws. They had entered the park the previous day.

Mr Watcharachai was removed from office on Monday by the provincial governor.  

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