Australian Minh Nguyen, American Joy Marian Somers and Thai nationals Hussein Ahmad and Hassun Kohkhar were charged last month for entering the zoo grounds without permission and for posting online claims that animals at the zoo appeared to have been abandoned. The zoo appeared to be unkept and the animals, especially one tiger, was so thin it was presumed to be underfed.
The four set up an account to receive donations to collect money to feed the animals. Videos showing the four and fellow animal lovers spending the money on buying food for the animals – and taking it to the zoo to feed it to the animals there – were posted on YouTube.
No evidence of Phuket Zoo refusing the food has been presented.
However, zoo owner Suriya Tanthaweewong, 40, reported the incident to police and complained that the zoo had not opened any account to receive donations, said Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Rungrote Thakurapunyasiri, who staged a press conference in front of Chalong Police Station to announce the charges on Apr 23.
The donations amounted to “millions”, Maj Gen Rungrote explained.
Regardless, as posting online the claim that the animals had been abandoned is being investigated as a breach of the Computer Crimes Act, it is being treated as a criminal act, and remains within the police’s purview to decide whether or not to formally press charges.
That has not happened yet, Chalong Police Chief Col Sarawut Chuprasit confirmed to The Phuket News today (May 15).
All four under investigation were released on B100,000 bail each since Apr 23, when Maj Gen Rungrote staged his press conference in front of Chalong Police Station, Col Sarawaut said.
“The investigation has not yet concluded and the case has not yet been sent to court,” Col Sarawut confirmed.
“The four accused denied all allegations and confirmed that they were allowed to go inside the zoo,” he added.
“Now, the case is still in the process of collecting evidence, including compiling witness statements and documents. Once we have completed gathering our evidence, which I expect will take no more than one month, the case will be submitted to the Public Prosecutor’s Office,” Col Sarawut explained.
As for the four suspects now out on bail, Col Sarawut said, “I expect that all four accused are still in Phuket.”