6 June 2024

Seven charges have been lodged against 12 members of a suspected hunting party allegedly led by a deputy district chief officer after forest rangers of the Saiyok national park in the western province of Kanchanaburi found carcass of a bearcat, one rifle, two handguns and ammunition in their vehicles on Sunday.

Mr Panatkorn Pothibandit, chief of Saiyok national park, said the 12 suspects were taken to Saiyok district police station where they were charged.

The charges include illegal hunting in national park, illegal possession of carcass of protected wildlife species, carrying guns in national park without permission, illegal possession of war weapon (cartridges for M16 assault rifle) and travelling by vehicles in areas not designated by the authorities.

The alleged hunting party went into the national park in a convoy of five four-wheel drive trucks on Saturday.  A team of 17 forest rangers was dispatched to the park to investigate when they were alerted of the party’s venture into the park on a hunting trip.

The forest rangers found the five trucks exiting on a dirt road next to the forest ranger unit at Khao Plu national park and stopped the trucks for searches which uncovered two severed legs and two feet of what believed to be a bearcat, one .22 calibre rifle mounted with a telescopic sight and a silencer, two 9mm semi-automatic pistols with dozens of cartridges of 5.56 mm and .22 calibres, three kitchen knives, two chopping knives and a chopping board.

The officials suspected that the bearcat had been eaten, leaving the remaining carcass.

The 12 suspects, including the deputy district chief of Dan Makham Tia district and defence volunteers,  denied they had anything to do with the animal carcass found in one of the trucks.

The park chief, Mr Panatkorn said officials would be sent to the camp site of the party to look for more evidence.

Meanwhile, Kanchanaburi governor Jirakiart Poomsawat said he had received initial report about the incident.  He added that if an official was involved in the alleged illegal hunting, a disciplinary panel would be set up to investigate and if found guilty he would face dismissal from the service.

In February this year, Italian-Thai Development president Premchai Karnasuta was arrested for illegal hunting in nearby Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary, also in Kanchanaburi province along with two men and a woman believed to be a cook.  They were accused of shooting death a black panther, an endangered species.

The alleged illegal hunting has caused a public uproar against the construction tycoon.  But eventually, there was concern that the case might be compromised because the case has been proceeding at snail pace.