Italian-Thai Development president Premchai Karnasuta (seated) was photographed by park wardens with three companions, guns and animal remains when he was confronted by the chief of Thungyai Naresuan park on Sunday night.
Premchai Karnasuta, the president of Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD) accused of poaching wildlife in a Kanchanaburi World Heritage sanctuary, should confess to the crime given the solid evidence against him, a senior forensic expert says.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said no one can help Mr Premchai if he is proven to be guilty as charged.
Pol Gen Jaramporn Suramanee, a forensic expert and former assistant national police chief, said Thursday he was confident evidence against the suspects in the case was solid.
“Therefore, denying [the charges] and fighting the case may be a waste of time. Confessing would be more useful,” Pol Gen Jaramporn said.
He made the remarks after meeting Natural Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Karnjanarat and authorities involved in the arrest of Mr Premchai, accused of poaching in the Thungyai Naresuan sanctuary last weekend.
Gen Surasak said he has set up a committee chaired by the director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to follow up on the case, in parallel with a police investigation.
Mr Premchai, 63, was arrested in the sanctuary on Sunday night along with three others — ITD employee Yong Dodkhruea, 65, of Ratchaburi, Nathee Riamsaen, 43, from Nakhon Ratchasima, and Thanee Thummat, 56, from Kanchanaburi.
They were found with the carcasses of protected wild animals, including a 1.48-metre-long Indochinese leopard, a Kalij pheasant and a common muntjac, also known as a barking deer, as well as three long-barrelled weapons and ammunition.
The four have been granted bail with a bond of 150,000 baht each. They denied the charges.
Pol Gen Jaramporn said evidence includes gunshot wounds to the dead wild animals.
The evidence gathered by forensic officers at the spot where the four suspects camped indicated they were ”well prepared”, Pol Gen Jaramporn said.
Park officials searched the belongings of the four upon their entry into the sanctuary and found no food, except some cooking utensils, salt and chilli paste, Pol Gen Jaramporn said.
He added that forensic officers were checking the carcasses of the animals to determine which type of firearms were used to kill them.
DNA samples, gunpowder residue and fingerprints have also been collected from the campsite and from the four suspects.
The evidence is in perfect condition and will be sent for laboratory analysis, Pol Gen Jaramporn said. He believed the results will pinpoint the wrongdoers.
Addressing the case of Mr Premchai on Thursday, Gen Prayut said anyone found guilty of breaking the law must be punished regardless of who they are. “No one can help, no matter how big they are, if proven to be in the wrong,” Gen Prayut said.
National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said police will expand their investigation into the case, including the issue involving Mr Premchai and his group obtaining permission to enter the wildlife sanctuary on their previous trips.
Meanwhile, deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said police are also investigating if there were attempts made to bribe officials during the arrest. A clip has been released to the media in which two men discuss assistance for officials involved in the arrest.
Pol Gen Srivara said that even though there were no witnesses to say who shot the animals, the evidence gathered is solid enough to pursue legal action against the suspects.
An initial check had found five gunshot wounds to the carcass of the leopard.
Anuwong Srichan, a park official, recounted the incident on Sunday night when the suspects were arrested at the camp. Mr Anuwong said he found a cooking pot near the tent where the four camped and the pot contained soup made of the tail of a leopard.
Meanwhile, a source said a retired senior official from the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation was the person who phoned Kanchana Nittaya, director of the Wildlife Conservation Office, to seek permission for Mr Premchai’s group to enter the sanctuary.