THE POACHING case linked to construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta may be delayed, after the Thong Pha Phum Provincial Court in Kanchanaburi on Wednesday asked the Appeals Court to rule if the case should be handled by the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases Region 7 in Samut Songkhram province.
A decision on whether the case should be transferred, reportedly stemming from a request by Premchai and another defendant on grounds that it was related to a bribery case that the court for corruption was considering – may be known only on August 27.
Saying the prosecutors had objected to the suggested transfer, which had been duly noted by the court judge, the attorney for the Office of the Public Prosecution Region 7, Somjet Amnuaysawat, told Thai PBS online yesterday that he was baffled by the court’s move.
The corruption case could be heard separate from the main lawsuit which was lodged with the Thong Pha Phum Court, Somjet said. If the case were transferred to the court that was set up in 2017 in Samut Songkhram, many witnesses from Kanchanaburi might find it difficult to travel there for deposition. Also the whole process will be back to square one, as the new court will have to review the evidence, causing a delay, he said. He conceded that the court had the power to make such a decision, hence everyone must now wait for the ruling on August 27.
The recent move has already caused a stir in Thai social media. Former attorney-general Trakul Winitnaiyapak said on his Facebook page on Wednesday that 116 days after the black panther was killed at the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi the case was fading. Commenting on Wednesday’s judicial development, he said, “There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes which I cannot talk about because I am an outsider, so I just feel frustrated.”
Seub Nakhasathien Foundation president and environmental activist Sasin Chalermlarp commented on his Facebook that he was confused by the issue of case transfer. “Why is this being done and who has asked for this? I still don’t have all the details and reasons behind this. … You’ve committed a wrongdoing and then caused much trouble to others; you think you can do this because you’re rich?” he wrote.
Italian-Thai Development Plc president and chief executive Premchai and three of his companions were accused of allegedly hunting protected animals, including the slain black panther that went on to become a symbol of the people’s protest, at the wildlife sanctuary in February.
Premchai himself faces seven charges linked to the alleged poaching, which he has denied. The charges include collusion in hunting wildlife in a sanctuary without permission; collusion in possessing wild animal carcasses; and bribery.