11 July 2024

The Supreme Court has upheld the Appeals Court prison term of three years and two months, without suspension, handed down to Thai construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta for poaching in Thungyai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary, among other offences, almost four years ago.

Two of his co-defendants, his driver Yong Dodkrua and Thanee Thummat, the hunter, also had their sentences upheld.

The decision was read at the Thong Pha Phum provincial Court in Kanchanaburi this morning.

All three were also ordered to pay two million baht in compensation to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. All will serve their terms at Thong Pha Phum district prison.

The final decision by the Supreme Court today brings to an end cases which have captured the public interest for about four years and raised questions over whether justice will finally be served in a case involving a super-rich defendant.

Premchai, president of Ital-Thai Development Corp, together with his driver Yong Dodkrua, hunter Thanee Thummat and housemaid Nathee Riamsaen, were arrested by officials of Thung Yai Naresuan wildlife sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province at their jungle camp between February 4th and 6th, 2018. Found in and near the camp were carcasses of protected animals, such as a black leopard, barking deer and Kalij pheasant.

They were later indicted for carrying firearms in public without a licence, poaching in a wildlife sanctuary, poaching of protected animals, illegal possession of carcasses of protected species, illegal hunting for forest products and attempting to cover up offences.

Accompanied by his lawyer, Premchai arrived at the court before 9am, with his left eye covered by cotton gauze and with the aid of a walking stick. Two other defendants, Yong and Thanee, also arrived almost simultaneously. The fourth defendant, Nathee, was not required to attend because she had not appealed her verdict to the Supreme Court.

An army of reporters and photographers were present in front of the court to cover the high-profile case.

On March 19th, 2019, the Criminal Court sentenced Premchai to 16 months in prison without suspension, after he was found guilty of illegally carrying firearms in public, poaching in a wildlife sanctuary, poaching of protected species, illegal possession of carcasses of protected animals and attempting to cover up the offences. The charge of illegal possession of the carcass of a black leopard was dismissed.

On December 12th, 2019 the Appeals Court sentenced Premchai to three years and two months without suspension. Yong was given a total of three years and 5 months, Thanee a total of three years and 9 months and Nathee one year and eight months, but the sentence was suspended for two years.

Only Premchai, Yong and Thanee appealed to the Supreme Court. The public prosecutors did not appeal because they were satisfied with the Appeals Court’s verdict and sentencing, according Prayut Petchkun, deputy spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General.

Separately, Premchai was also sentenced to one year, without suspension, on bribery charges by the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases. He also faces six months for illegal possession of firearms. The sentences are to run consecutively.