Premchai probed for alleged encroachment

national February 13, 2018 01:00

By The Nation

Embattled ITD president may resign as investigation of alleged poaching continues



POLICE WILL extend the investigation into a report that a construction tycoon accused of poaching has a resort-style house in Loei’s Phu Rua district to see whether it is situated in a national park or protected zone.

Pol Maj-General Panya Pinsuk, commander of the police’s Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression division, said officers had also been assigned to check if Premchai Karnasuta, president of Italian-Thai Development (ITD), had houses in other areas.

He was responding to unconfirmed reports that Premchai’s house in Phu Rua was in a national park or protected forest.

Meanwhile, an ITD source said on Sunday that Premchai was considering stepping down as ITD president after being subjected to intense pressure related to accusations of illegal hunting.

Premchai, 63, and three others have been charged with poaching after being arrested at the World Heritage site Thung Yai Naresuan Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province last week.

Hunting rifles and ammunition as well as the carcasses of three protected wild animals, including an endangered black leopard, were found near their campsite.

The source said Premchai’s family, as well as ITD executives, were concerned about the reaction to the episode and feared that it would have a negative impact on the company. His family was said to have seriously considered the issue and sought the best solution for both Premchai and ITD.

They thought the only way to quell the public pressure was for Premchai to resign as ITD president to show that the issue was a personal matter and to distance the company from wrongdoing, the source added.

Social media users have lobbied for a widespread boycott of the firm.

Meanwhile, police said yesterday that Noppadon Prueksawan, a retired senior parks official and close aide to Premchai, would meet police in response to a summons on Thursday or Friday.

Noppadon

He was identified by Wildlife Conservation Bureau director Kanjana Nittaya as the person who had called her seeking permission for Premchai to visit the sanctuary for the purpose of “nature studies.”

Pol Colonel Suwat Inthasit, deputy commander of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime division, said if he failed to turn himself in this week, a second summons would be issued.

Meanwhile, the National Legislative Assembly’s committee on natural resources and the environment told a press briefing that members would seek ways to increase punishments for poaching and other violations of wildlife and forestry laws.

The panel said they had invited Kanjana and Wichian Shinwong, the forest ranger chief who led the arrest of Premchai, to meet with them and explain how enforcement of the wildlife protection laws should be improved.

A panel member said punishment under the current laws was too light and that panel members had learned that the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry was in the process of reviewing the laws and penalties.