11 July 2024

About ten months after the shooting of a black panther in the Thungyai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary in February allegedly by Italian-Thai Development International Corp boss Premchai Karnasuta and three others, the Thong Pha Phum provincial court in the western province of Kanchanaburi held its first hearing of the high-profile case today.

Accompanied by their lawyers, Premchai and the other three co-defendants, Yong Dodkrua, Mrs Nathee Riamsaen and Thanee Thummat, were present in the court.

The four were slapped with six charges by the public prosecutors ranging from illegally carrying firearms in public without licenses; illegal hunting in wildlife sanctuary; illegally hunting of protected wildlife species without permission; illegal possession of carcasses of protected wildlife species without permission; concealing of illegally acquired wildlife carcasses and illegal collection of wild forest products.

Premchai was seen with a walking cane as he walked into the courtroom.  Neither he nor the three co-defendants talked to the media.

Among the first group of 32 prosecution witnesses to testify today was Pol Gen Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul, the deputy national police chief, who oversaw the police investigation of the case.

A key prosecution witness is Wichien Chinnawong, chief of Thungyai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary who made the arrest of the four co-defendants in February.  He arrived at the court with legal officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation.

Wichien told the media that he didn’t feel he was under pressure in the court session today and promised to do his best  in his role as a key witness.

All the 32 prosecution witnesses are scheduled to testify in 10 hearings to be finished on December 18 while the 17 defence witnesses are due to testify on December 19 for six hearings until December 27.