BANGKOK — Police and environment officials Tuesday denied an environment activist’s accusations they were protecting a powerful construction mogul accused of killing a black panther.
Police and officials investigating allegations that Italian-Thai Development CEO Premchai Karnasutra poached and ate a black panther in a wildlife sanctuary last month dismissed accusations that they are dragging their feet to shield him from prosecution.
“Not catch him? How is that possible? Of course we will issue a summons for him. We had him in custody and then he posted bail,” Col. Wuttipong Yenjit of Thong Pha Phum district said by phone Tuesday. “What are you finding issue with us for?”
The accusations were made online in a series of emotionally charged posts by Sasin Chalermlarp, president of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, an environmental protection foundation.
“If you really want to find a way to help those who did wrong by destroying society, what can we do to you?” Sasin wrote. “But let me ask you. Have you ever looked at the sky and the earth with full eyes like me? How do you sleep at night, does your conscience say anything? When you sit and poop, staring at the bathroom walls, do you feel ashamed? When you look at your parents, wife and kids, do you feel proud of yourself? I’m asking you. Answer me!”
A top environmental official said Sasin had an overactive imagination.
“Academics and NGOs are imagining things when they think the state is helping Premchai,” Environmental Minister Gen. Surasak Kanjanarat said Tuesday.
Surasak said that on Wednesday he will head a meeting with police and related authorities to update the case. “He has been charged with nine counts, but we will see after the meeting on the 28th whether he is liable for more.”
Premchai has ignored police summons to appear ever since he was released after being held briefly on Feb. 5. He was charged with poaching, trespassing and weapons-related charges.
Although the case has inflamed a public already frustrated by powerful figures placed above the law, the justice process has followed a seemingly predictable course of delays and excuses. Police have granted Premchai multiple extensions to appear without making any move to take him into custody.
Sasin, 49, is a respected environmental activist and academic, having led frequent protests against state initiatives such as new coal plant and dam projects.
On Sunday, he wrote that that there was enough evidence to prosecute Premchai: the salted black panther (actually a type of leopard), evidence it was used to make a black panther soup and a gnawed-upon leg bone discarded nearby, not to mention the hunting party’s possession of firearms and a recording in which Premchai can be heard trying to bribe forest rangers to let them go.
“How is this not enough? We’re just waiting on results of his poop,” Sasin wrote of a forensic examination of feces thought to have come from 63-year-old Premchai. “I think whatever happens, the prosecution will just aid Premchai for sure. At this point, he 1) should not be allowed bail 2) is a social and environmental hazard and 3) with this much evidence, if he gets away still, this government can’t pretend they’re not responsible.”