Court Affirms Premchai’s Prison Sentence for Poaching

In this photo released by the Thailand Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the president of Thailand's largest construction company Premchai Karnasuta, 63, left, is seen with a group while being detained in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province on Thailand's western border, Feb. 4, 2018. (Thailand Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation via AP, File)

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a three-year, two-month prison sentence for a top construction tycoon in connection with a poaching incident in a wildlife sanctuary in which a black panther was shot and cooked over a campfire.

Premchai Karnasuta is president of Italian-Thai Development PLC, one of the country’s biggest and best-known construction companies, which has been involved in mega-projects such as the building of Suvarnabhumi international airport and Bangkok’s mass transit Skytrain system.

The jailing of Premchai is a rare case of a rich, influential Thai having to serve time for wrongdoing. The Thai public has grown weary of repeated examples of wealthy Thais apparently flouting the law with impunity.

The 66-year-old heard the verdict at a court in the western province of Kanchanaburi. He arrived wearing a bandage over one eye, though it wasn’t clear why. Court staff said that after the court appearance, he was taken directly to begin his sentence at a nearby prison.


The poaching incident in February 2018 caused widespread outrage. Premchai was arrested at night at a campsite deep within the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s listed for its rare flora and fauna.

Park rangers found guns and the carcasses of a number of animals nearby including a black panther. The panther had been butchered and its meat cooked up for soup.

Premchai was convicted on several charges including poaching and carrying weapons without a permit. In addition to his prison sentence, he was ordered to pay a share of a 2 million baht fine.


Two men arrested with him – a driver and a hunter – also received prison sentences and fines.

A still-unresolved case involving another of Thailand’s richest families is that of Vorayuth Yoovidhya, an heir to the fortune of the family that part-owns the Red Bull drinks company.

He repeatedly avoided meeting with prosecutors for more than four years, following his involvement in a car crash in 2012 that killed a traffic police officer. He eventually fled abroad, three days before a court issued an arrest warrant.