Thai construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta told reporters yesterday that he didn’t kill the black panther as he was summoned to hear three more charges at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.
The CEO of Italian-Thai Development, the largest construction firm in the country, denied three fresh charges yesterday after a four-hour-long meeting with police at the National Resources and Environmental Crime Division yesterday.
The charges were bribery, illegal possession of firearms, and illegal possession of elephant ivory. The unlicensed firearms and two pairs of ivory were found during the raid of his home in Bangkok on Feb. 7, following his arrest, Khaosod reported.
Premchai has already denied nine charges related to poaching.
The carcass of a rare black panther was among those found at Premchai’s campsite in a prohibited zone at the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province, where he and three companions were arrested by park officials on Feb. 4.
As he was walking to his car, Premchai spoke briefly to reporters, “I’ve denied all three charges today.”
Asked if he killed the panther, he said, “No, I didn’t. I’m sorry that everybody feels this way about this incident…about me, but I think the truth will come out in court.”
Premchai’s next stop was the Criminal Court. Officers requested his detainment, but did not raise an objection when his legal team asked for bail. The court applied the standard 12-day detention period meant to let police gather evidence, but released the suspect almost immediately when he supplied THB300,000 bail. Now that he is on bail, he can no longer leave the country as he did last weekend.
Deputy Police Chief Pol. Gen. Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said there was no reason for the police to object Premchai’s bail yesterday, Post Today reported.
He added, “In laws, there aren’t the rich or the poor. There are only the innocent and the guilty. There are 60 million Thais. Less than a million are on social network. Less than a million thinks this way.”
[Editor’s Note: This was a direct quote from Pol. Gen. Srivara. In fact, the population of Thailand is 69 million, and 47 million people in Thailand are on Facebook, according to a statistics from last year.]
In a country where the rich and famous often escape justice, Gen. Srivara’s comment referred to the outrage on social media, where many have expressed fears that Premchai will join the list of powerful people who will get away with a slap on the wrist.
Thai artists have created convertrosial art featuring the slain black panther as a response to the case, while students from a top university previously held a vigil in which they donned leopard masks. Several people also keep the conversation going with a hashtag translated to English as “Black panther, you must not die in vain.”