Verdict cause for cheer

Verdict cause for cheer

On Wednesday, Thais witnessed justice being served fair and square. In a trial that will be remembered as a landmark environmental case, the Supreme Court handed down jail terms of about three years to construction tycoon Premchai Karnasutra and two accomplices for poaching in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary.

On Feb 4, 2018, three culprits, along with a cook who was given a suspended term, were arrested at a camp in the wildlife sanctuary in Kanchanaburi's Thong Pha Phum district for hunting protected wildlife including a rare black leopard, a khalij pheasant and a barking deer.

It is reported that the black leopard meat was used as a recipe for an exotic menu. The 66-year-old tycoon is said to be fond of exotic animal dishes.

For those who believe in the much-used local adage that "Thai jails are only for locking up poor people", the verdict came as a surprise. Understandably, Thais have felt demoralised in the past after witnessing rich and powerful people -- among them two former prime ministers and wealthy and influential people such as Red Bull scion Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya -- running away from court, escaping the country.

Therefore, watching the billionaire being jailed as he was on Wednesday after a long court case, people feel inspired to hope that the justice system will work better.

While the verdict sends a message about the high standards of wildlife protection expected in Thailand, the case is also seen as a leap forward for the much-criticised justice system.

Yet the victory is also the result of the honesty and hard work of the staff at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. They deserve praise not only for their integrity but also their professionalism as they investigated and built a watertight case. Public prosecutors said they had no reservations about sending the case to court.

The trial of Premchai is in striking contrast to the manner in which the Royal Thai Police (RTP) and Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) have handled the case of Mr Vorayuth.

In the past seven years, the authorities have not been able to locate him despite foreign media easily taking his photo as he left a flat in London a few years ago.

While society is uplifted by the fearless DNP officials, the police's latest update about the Red Bull case is disheartening.

Police told the House committee on police and justice this week that police cannot bring Mr Vorayuth back to stand trial or trace his whereabouts in Europe because of budget constraints.

Now Mr Vorayuth faces just two remaining charges -- narcotics use after cocaine was allegedly found in his system following a drug test, and reckless driving causing death. The statute of limitations for the narcotic charge expires on Sept 3 next year while that for the reckless driving causing death will expire in 2027.

If that is the case, the government cannot afford to let the police and OAG handle this case alone. A special committee is needed to oversee efforts to locate him and have Mr Vorayuth brought home. The more the case is delayed, the more justice is denied.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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