District chief moved over 'biased' probe
Suthipong favoured accused police officer: Kaeng Krachan park chief
The Provincial Administration Department has transferred the chief of Phetchaburi's Kaeng Krachan district, Suthipong Tanbunyasiridej, over a scandal involving an illegal hunting party in Kaeng Krachan National Park that included Prachuap Khiri Khan inspector Pol Lt-Colonel Thirayuth Katemungmee.
Suthipong's transfer to an assistant's position at the Institute of Administration Development takes effect tomorrow.
The alleged poaching incident, which took place early in November, received widespread public attention after photographs and video footage seized from the suspects showed members of the hunting party - including Thirayuth, a senior policeman - apparently eating wildlife killed in the park.
Following the transfer order issued on Friday, Suthipong said he had no comment about the case against Thirayuth, saying only that he was pleased by the transfer order because it meant he would have no further involvement in the case.
The move followed a complaint with provincial authorities filed by Kaeng Krachan National Park chief Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn against Suthipong accusing him of being biased, unfair and unprofessional in his decision not to indict Thirayuth for poaching. Suthipong headed the investigation into the controversial hunting case.
Chaiwat yesterday described as unconvincing Suthipong's claim that park officials' arrest report and the evidence they submitted to police investigators were incomplete and didn't clearly show wrongdoing by Thirayuth. Chaiwat was also dismissive of Suthipong's claim that the other seven suspects testified that Thirayuth didn't attend the hunting party.
Saying Suthipong hadn't investigated the case thoroughly and should have asked for more information if needed, Chaiwat said Suthipong's claim not to know the time and date on which the now infamous photographs were taken was also unconvincing. Anyone with basic computer knowledge would be able to establish that information, Chaiwat said.
Chaiwat said he and Suthipong had previously clashed over the latter's decision to move people into Pong Leuk and Bang Kloy villages in the park area. Chaiwat believed that those moving in were not locals, and that the action could therefore result in conflict over insufficient farmland. He said the district chief should have discussed the plan with Chaiwat's office first. He said the two agencies should have discussed what to do with these outsiders, especially with hilltribe people who had not been issued Thai ID cards, because many of them made a living from poaching, or hunted illegally in order to raise money to pay for ID card applications.
Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Conservation deputy chief Teerapat Prayunsit and Sakda Noppasit, the secretary to the natural resources and environment minister, visited the area yesterday to monitor the progress of the investigation. They also looked into Bang Kloy village's project to turn degraded forestland into terraced rice fields and inspected preparations of the 3-million-rai Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, which is to be nominated for listing as a World Heritage Site.
Sakda said the poaching investigation had made good progress. Police investigators led by assistant National Police commissioner Lt-General Jaramporn Suramanee had inspected the scene and taken pictures to compare with the existing evidence, the secretary said. Sakda also praised officials, especially Chaiwat for their forest-protection activities.