Thai tycoon Premchai gets another 6 months, denied parole

Premchai Karnasuta (center) was arrested for hunting protected animals on Sunday. Photo: Kon Anurak
Premchai Karnasuta (center) was arrested for hunting protected animals on Sunday. Photo: Kon Anurak

Premchai Karnasuta is going to be spending a little more time in jail than expected. The criminal court this morning found the now-infamous Thai construction tycoon guilty of illegal possession of firearms and sentenced him to an additional six months behind bars. 

That’s on top of the 28 months he’s already got coming for a variety of offenses, including the infamous February 2018 hunting expedition that ended with the death of a protected black panther and sparked a rarely seen level of public fury.

An attempt by the 64-year-old’s lawyers to get him off with a suspended jail term this morning fell flat, when the judge swatted down a plea deal that involved him taking up the monkhood for a whole 15 days, donating about THB3 million (US$97,000) to charity, and swearing to totally avoid weapons for the rest of his life.

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The most recent case against Premchai – currently out on bail on several charges – charged the businessman with illegally possessing three rifles, ammo, and an airgun at his house in Bangkok’s Huai Khwang district on Feb. 7 last year. He denied the charges while giving testimony on May 1. 

But just last month, he had a change of heart and confessed. And by “change of heart,” we mean that confessing got his sentence cut in half — from one year to six months.

When Premchai’s attorney this morning rolled out his monk/donation proposal, hoping to shave the six months down even further (if not make it go away entirely), the court said “no thanks” given that the tycoon still has two pending criminal cases regarding the poaching case.

Premchai, the managing director of the largest construction firm in Thailand, was arrested for poaching a protected species in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi back in February of last year. He was arrested along with three others reportedly camped in the prohibited area of sanctuary. 

The quartet was found with the carcass of a black panther, which had been skinned, a Kalij pheasant, and a barking deer — all of which are protected species in Thailand.

Construction tycoon arrested for hunting protected animals

Three days later, officials raided Premchai’s Huai Khwang house and found more illegal firearms, which led to today’s court hearing. 

Premchai was sentenced back in March to 16 months in prison for illegal weapons possession (a six-month jail sentence), the killing of a pheasant (another two months), and conspiracy to poach wildlife (eight months). 

He was, however, let off the hook for the black panther killing, which prompted outrage and protests around the country. Charges related to the possession of the panther carcass were instead pinned on the three other defendants in the case. 

Oh, did we mention the bribery charges? He was sentenced to one year in prison on bribery charges in May.

Both times, he was granted bail. Premchai continues to deny any illegal poaching or hunting.  

Related stories:

Thai tycoon gets 16 months for poaching, weapons possession, but off the hook for black panther killing

Premchai denies killing black panther, released on THB300,000 bail

Cops’ case against alleged panther killer Premchai strong, CEO gets bill for park damage

As viral slain panther art mysteriously deleted from Facebook, Premchai travels abroad

Stencil graffiti of silenced black leopard goes viral, then mysteriously disappears

As bribery allegations surface, Prayuth says panther-poaching tycoon will be held accountable if guilty

OPINION: Why students at Thailand’s top uni protesting killing of protected panther matters

Construction tycoon arrested for hunting protected animals

 

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