Hunting party police officer might not walk free after all
- Published: 29/01/2013 at 11:37 AM
- Online news:
The illegal hunting controversy involving a middle-ranking police officer reminds me of the Thung Yai hunting scandal four decades ago. It involved both police and army officers, who misused an army helicopter for their particular hunting spree.
The Thung Yai scandal would not have been publicly exposed and so probably would not have fuelled the resentment the public already felt toward the then military dictatorship of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn and Field Marshal Prapass Charusathiara and Colonel Narong Kittikachorn had the chopper used in the illegal hunting not crashed in Bang Len district of Nakhon Pathom on April 29, 1973.
The law of karma had caught up with the illegal hunters, so it was said. Six passengers onboard the ill-fated army helicopter, including a boy, were killed and four others were seriously injured. But what caught public attention and fuelled an uproar, especially among student activists, the pioneers of the environmentalist movement years afterward, were the large number of animal carcasses found scattered over the crash scene.
Due to the close connections between some members of the privileged hunting party and Col Narong, Fd Mar Thanom immediately jumped to their defence, claiming that they were on a secret military mission near the Thai-Burmese border and that the illegal hunting case should be closed.
What did not make any sense at all about Thanom’s defence of the hunters was the presence of the boy. What was a child doing aboard a helicopter supposedly on a secret mission, and where did all those dead animals fit in?
The attempted cover-up backfired, and public resentment of the military regime continued and intensified, culminating in the famous October 14 student-led uprising later that same year which finally resulted to the overthrow of the dictatorship.
Kaeng Krachan national park in Phetchaburi province (Photo by Yvonne Bohwongprasert)
Of course, the current hunting controversy centres on Kaeng Krachan national park in Petchaburi province, is not as scandalous as the Thung Yai incident and is unlikely to have any bearing at all on the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
However, it will have an impact on the image and credibility of the Royal Thai Police Office and the national police chief, Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew, if it is not handled properly and in a straightforward manner, especially in matters pertaining to one of the nine accused hunters, Pol Lt-Col Thirayuth Katemungmee, an inspector of Ao Noi police in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Pol Lt-Col Thirayuth was accused by Kaeng Krachan national park officials of illegal hunting, along with the eight civilians. The group was alleged to have ventured into the park on an illegal hunting expedition on November 8 last year.
Although no dead animals or guns were found on the boat in which they returned from their unauthorised trip into the forest, park officials claimed they seized cameras which contained pictures of the group, including the police officer, at a hunting camp eating the meat of protected animals killed in the park.
When the case was filed with Kaeng Krachan police for further investigation, all members of the hunting party except Pol Lt-Col Thirayuth were charged, which drew a strong protest from the park officials and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife.
The police officer was left off the hook because the other members of the group maintained that he was not involved in the illegal hunting. Also, the Kaeng Krachan police rejected the only evidence available – that is, the camera images.
It is encouraging that the national police chief has now taken the case seriously. A team led by Pol Lt-Gen Jarumporn Suramanee, an assistant police chief, was assigned to investigate and instructed to ensure fairness to all parties concerned.
An initial report of the investigators said that technicians could determine the date when the images were shot, even if the date did not show on the images themselves, and that the evidence could be used in a court against the offenders, including the police officer in question.
The case should be treated in a straightforward manner without any favouritism for any particular individual, and hopefully all will receive due justice. It should not end up like the Thung Yai scandal, in which a Karen guide was the only person found guilty of any offence and penalised, with the rest all walking free.
About the author
- Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
Position: Former Editor