Thai law prohibits the import, trade and possession of African ivory. Violators could be subject to a fine of up to B40,000 and/or a prison term of up to four years.
The test results would likely lead to another charge for Premchai who already faces nine charges including poaching and hunting protected wildlife, as well as carrying guns in a wildlife protected area.
A well-placed source at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) confirmed that all four ivory tusks came from African elephants.
“With this finding, the department will take legal action against him,” said the source.
Premchai, who is president of Italian-Thai Development Plc, was arrested along with three other suspects on Feb 4 after being caught with guns and several carcasses in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province.
Police early this month raided Premchai’s house and found four pieces of ivory and almost 50 guns and a quantity of ammunition. All were seized as evidence.
Deputy police chief, Gen Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul, said yesterday (Feb 27) that police could submit all the evidence to the attorney-general by March 24.
Currently, the police investigation is about 80% complete, with 30 witnessed already questioned, he said.
Gen Srivara said police were prepared to issue an arrest warrant for Premchai if he fails to give a statement to police on Monday (Mar 5) at Thong Pa Phum Police Station in Kanchanaburi province.
Premchai has twice failed to show up at the station to acknowledge charges. Thai law allowed suspects to skip a polices summons twice.
Public scepticism is growing about the way police are handling the high profile case.
Police last week reportedly withdrew an animal torture charge against Premchai and the three other suspects.
Gen Srivara explained yesterday that the charge comes under the Animal Cruelty Prevention and Animal Welfare Act which only applies to domestic animals.
In a related development, Col Watcharin Phoosuk, deputy commander of the Counter Corruption Division (CCD), denied media reports that an audio clip of a conversation between the suspects and park officials had gone missing. However, he said this evidence looked weak because none of the voices heard talking to officials were Premchai’s and the conversation was general. The voice thought to be the tycoon’s was one of other suspects talking to forest officials after being arrested.
Col Watcharin said the CCD will invite Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary chief, Wichien Chinawong, and five other witnesses to give statements on the audio clips on March 8. The CCD will decide by March 12 on whether to press attempted bribery charges against Premchai and the other three suspects.
Conservationists and university students have called on the public to monitor the investigation.
They fear the case might be buried because of Premchai’s high profile status.
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