Premchai in Court Tomorrow for Black Panther Trial

Premchai Karnasuta.
Premchai Karnasuta.

KANCHANABURI — Construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta is expected in court Wednesday after the prosecution hears its final witness today in a trial over his and other defendants’ roles in the slaying of a black panther.

As the primary defendant at the center of the case, the president of Italian-Thai Development must appear in the Thong Pha Phum Provincial Court alongside his co-defendants when the defense begins calling witnesses and making its case. He hasn’t appeared in court since the first day of the trial.

Since it began last month, 32 prosecution witnesses have taken the stand to build a case against the powerful and wealthy figure who in February was arrested by rangers at a campsite in the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. They allegedly had firearms and remains of animals including a protected black panther.

The defense is expected to call 17 witnesses.

The court gave Premchai permission to be absent during the first phase of the trial at his lawyers’ request. They cited health and business concerns. His three co-defendants have attended every hearing.

Premchai and his party were charged several counts relating to poaching and firearms.

Defense lawyers last month reportedly claimed in court that the 64-year-old wasn’t present in the hunting camp when the arrest was made.

A photo of him seated in a hunting sweater in front of the camp went viral after his arrest.