CHIEF FOREST RANGER Wichian Chinwong has filed a bribery complaint against the president of Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD), Premchai Karnasuta, who is accused along with three companions of poaching and possessing wildlife at the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province.
The four entered the sanctuary last Saturday before being captured by wildlife rangers on Sunday after they were seen possessing firearms, ammunition, as well as carcasses of wild animals, including the rare black leopard.
On Tuesday, they were charged with nine offences relating to illegal poaching and possessing wildlife in the World Heritage Site sanctuary.
After giving information to the police on Thursday, Wichian was advised by deputy police chief Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul to file a complaint for attempted bribery by Premchai and his companions with the police Anti-Corruption Division.
Pol Maj-General Kamol Rianpre-echa, a commander of the division, yesterday revealed that Wichian had filed the complaint against Premchai on Thursday night, accusing the ITD boss of trying to bribe the rangers in exchange for their release.
He said the division took up the case and would ask its heads to endorse the complaint before proceeding further.
Wichian told the anti-corruption police that during detention, Premchai tried to negotiate his release, asking whether there were ways to help.
He reportedly said that anything the rangers wanted he would provide them, and would ask a person named “N” to contact them and talk further, the police were told. Wichian viewed this as an attempt to bribe the officials, and decided to file the complaint.
Srivara said under the law even a bribery attempt is a crime.
Srivara dismissed news on social media that he had charged Wichian for failing to collect entrance fees. Srivara said he had learned during interrogation that people could enter the sanctuary by paying fees at the entrance, or submitting a letter in advance demonstrating research purposes. This, he said, would entail no fees being charged, which is how Premchai had entered the sanctuary.
Srivara said he had forwarded the report of the findings to the National Parks Department to handle later, viewing this as an internal matter for the department.
Wichian told Srivara that had not collected the fees as he was contacted by “a director” to grant permission to the group and a letter was prepared accordingly.
Wildlife Conservation Bureau director Kanjana Nittaya was invited along with nine other people to give information to police. The director was reportedly asked by her former director, who is reportedly close to Premchai, to help facilitate the trip. Kanjana insisted that she gave advice in keeping with procedures, and vowed to resign if found guilty.
Sompoch Maneerat, the department’s spokesperson, and a former chief of the adjacent Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, said that the department understood the situation, but had decided to set up a fact-finding panel to ensure fair treatment to everyone.
Deputy police chief Pol General Chalermkiat Srivorakhan said police investigators are in the process of collecting evidence, including fingerprints found on the seized rifles and the leopard carcass. Chalermkiat insisted that the case was being taken care of by several senior police officers, including Srivara, and there was no concern of possible interference in the case.
Chalermkiat said police had coordinated with immigration officials to ensure the accused did not flee the country. Srivara said the tycoon would be interrogated during the second request for bail.