Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Rungrote Thakurapunyasiri speaking at Chalong Police Station, where the four were charged today (Apr 23), named the four as Australian Minh Nguyen, American Joy Marian Somers and Thai nationals Hussein Ahmad and Hassun Kohkhar.
Gen Rungrote alleged that on Apr 14, at about 6pm, Hassan climbed the wall into Phuket Zoo. He recorded a video in the zoo and narrated that the zoo owner had abandoned the animals.
The video was posted on Facebook by “Joy Somers”. From investigation, officers had learned that the account belongs to Miss Joy Marian Somers, he said.
Ms Somers today openly admitted that they had opened a bank account under the name of Mr Khokhar to collect donations to buy food for the animals – a fact still plainly seen in videos posted on Minh Nguyen’s YouTube channel, along with video recorded evidence that money was spent on buying food to deliver to the animals.
Zoo owner Suriya Tanthaweewong, 40, reported the incident to police and complained that the zoo had not opened any account to receive donations, Maj Gen Rungrote said.
Maj Gen Rungrote added that the account set up had received “millions of baht” in donations.
Mr Suriya also told police that the zoo “had never abandoned the animals”, and repeated that the zoo has sufficient food for the animals.
That claim was upheld by wildlife officials who visited the zoo last Friday (Apr 17), more than two days after being informed by senior officers in Bangkok of the alleged condition of the animals in the zoo.
Despite saying that the zoo had enough food to feed the animals and that the animals were in “perfect condition”, officials still promised to provide more food to ensure the welfare of the animals.
Also last Friday, Mr Suriya told national reporters, “If people wish to support the feeding of the animals I am very happy to allow it. We can be contacted for further details on telephone number 061-8259225.”
The zoo was closed by order of the Phuket Governor’s office as one of the measures to shut down tourist attractions on the island to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Gen Rungrote explained today that all four suspects had been charged with entering false information to a computer system which negatively affected others.
Mr Kohkhar was also charged with trespass.
The bank account with the donations received had been seized, he added.
Gen Rungrote noted that the penalty for the breach of the Computer Crimes Act that the four face is up to five years in prison or a fine of up to B100,000 fine, or both.
The charge of trespass may incur a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to B10,000, or both, he added.