Poaching probe shows signs of slippage

Forty-eight days! Why so long for a case which is not complicated at all?

I pity the Indochinese black leopard killed at the Thungyai Naresuan World Heritage site. Also, my regrets to its partner — another black cat which in this case survived the cruel hunters.

Forest rangers of this animal sanctuary said the two leopards were occasionally sighted around the campsite where Italian-Thai Development Plc boss Premchai Karnasuta and three other members of his hunting party spent their “nature study” trip during Feb 2-4.

 My condemnation to the cruel hunters who killed this rare animal and those who ate its meat in the form of leopard tail soup. Was the exotic meat delicious? I have never tried it before. My culinary adventure goes as far as oxtail soup. Better ask Khun Premchai, who would be able to give you the answer.

Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.

Now take a look at what the rangers, headed by Wichien Chinnawong, head of Thungyai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary, found at the campsite and its close vicinity.

According to Mr Wichien’s report, the items found include one .22 calibre rifle with two bullets — one in the magazine and the other in the firing chamber — and 64 .22 calibre cartridges, one doublebarrel shotgun and a rifle for big-game hunting, carcasses of a leopard, a barking dear and a rare wild fowl, fishing gear, and cooking ingredients.

More interestingly, a large amount of salt which was more than enough for a normal cooking for a party of four. So, what was the use of the salt besides cooking?

Then you have the leopard’s full-body skin which was neatly stripped from the poor animal by a skilled hunter. A prized trophy for decorating whose private office? The Manager Daily online newspaper recently showed a tiger’s skin chair in the private office of Khun Premchai.

For an average man with common sense, the items found at the campsite are more than enough proof that the tycoon’s party did not go to the reserve to “study nature” as they claimed, but to hunt.

The seized materials are evidence the party carried weapons into the sanctuary. But they can’t prove who shot the black leopard, the barking deer or the wild fowl even if the authorities know who owns all the guns.

When cornered with the evidence, the tycoon’s defence lawyer will certainly insist the ITD boss did not fire any of the guns found at the campsite that killed the

animals. As far as this aspect is concerned, have the police conducted forensic tests on the suspects, Mr Premchai in particular, for gunpowder traces? That might suggest who fired the guns.

That brings us to the police and their handling of the case after they obtained the evidence from Mr Wichien. And it is this area of responsibility that Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the deputy national chief, should focus on — and should not fail us.

Can he assure us that his men have covered every aspect thoroughly, and the case will be water-tight? That would make more sense than picking on Mr Wichien for the silly matter of exempting Mr Premchai’s hunting party from the 110 baht entry fee to the sanctuary, as reported in the media.

Was this the best he could do in this case — for a man who is being groomed to be the next national police chief after Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda? (In an about-face, Pol Gen Srivara told the media he simply made an observation and it’s up to Mr Wichien’s boss, not

him, whether to punish the park chief for “dereliction of duty.”) The deputy police chief should focus on the real perpetrators and make sure his men, the police in Kanchanaburi province, do a good job without favouritism. This is a high-profile case that is of public interest so it should be treated seriously.

To begin with, Pol Gen Srivara should instruct the police in Thong Pha Phum district who are handling the case to speed up their work.

The district police superintendent,

Pol Col Wutthipong Yenchit, said the other day his men would need 48 days to collect necessary evidence and wrap up the case.

Forty-eight days! Why so long for a case which is not complicated at all?

Most of the evidence given to police comes from the forest rangers with the exception of the forensic report about the gunpowder traces and fingerprints which, again, should not take 48 days.

We can’t afford to have this case end in a similar fashion to the illegal hunting

case in Thungyai four decades ago when all the big fish were acquitted by the court except for a Karen hunter named Klae being the lone scapegoat who was convicted and given six months in jail.

Remember the ageing couple in Kalasin who were convicted for picking wild mushrooms, even though there were no witnesses to the act? It’s the mushrooms they had in their possession when authorities found them that were used against them in the case. The same standard should be applied to this illegal hunting case given the overwhelming circumstantial evidence there, without the need for witnesses who saw them commit the offence.

Hopefully, the sarcastic comment that prisons in Thailand were built to cage the poor, which is getting louder and louder, will not be proven correct in this case. And this should be the main focus of Pol Gen Srivara — not the exemption of the 110-baht entry fee.

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