The department reportedly decided to pursue the case after an audio recording emerged of a conversation believed to be between Premchai and his group while in custody. In the clip, someone says Premchai owns a house on a mountain in Loei’s Phu Rua district.
The sound clip, from an unknown source, was among evidence collected after Premchai and three others were arrested for hunting wildlife in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province on Feb 4.
An examination of the plot of land, owned by PCK International Company, of which Premchai is a board member, will be carried out, according to Attapol Charoenchansa, the deputy chief of the department.
The disputed plot is a 6,215-rai area near Rang Yen Resort for which land title deeds were found to have been illegally issued. In 2003, the Department of Lands withdrew all title deeds for the plot as it was found to be encroaching on a national park.
However, the company struck a deal to rent it back for agricultural purposes. After this contract expired, PCK obtained title deeds for 679 rai of the 6,215 rai. The forestry department will examine how this smaller area in the public forest was obtained and will press charges against three employees of PCK – Pilaijitra Ruengpitthaya, Nijaporn Choranajitra and Ornaim Terdprawat – who co-signed the land rental contract with the land department. All three are members of the company’s board.
A police team, led by deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, yesterday searched three land plots in Phu Rue district including the Rungyen Resort to probe their links with Premchai. The others are areas in Wanothayan and the Chateau De Loei grape fields.
The probe is looking generally at the ownership and whether it meets the requirements of the law.
Meanwhile, Noppadol Prueksawan, a former officer of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, has admitted to police he helped coordinate Premchai’s visit to the sanctuary by contacting Kanchana Nittaya, director of the Wildlife Conservation Office, late last month to ask permission for entry to the area for a nature trip.
Noppadol, who now serves as an adviser to ITD, also admitted giving flash lights to parks department officers on Feb 3, but said it was out of consideration, and not as a bribe, said Maj Gen Panya, refusing to reveal the number of torches.
Premchai and the other three suspects were yesterday (Feb 13) slapped with additional charges of animal cruelty.
The four earlier were charged with nine violations, including unauthorised hunting in a wildlife sanctuary and unauthorised possession of guns and ammunition in the park.
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