Karen poacher jailed, officials who hired him let off lightly
published : 6 Mar 2019 at 17:53
writer: Piyarat Chongcharoen
KANCHANABURI: A Karen man who said he shot a bearcat in a national park on the orders of "Thai officials" who hired him has been sent to prison for 3 years and seven months.
The officials received suspended sentences ranging from 15 days to 3 months.
They were among 13 defendants arrested for poaching wildlife in Sai Yok National Park on Oct 7 last year. They included then Dan Makham Tia district deputy chief Watcharachai Sameerak.
They were found in possession of a rifle fitted with a noise suppressor, a pistol, ammunition and four binturong (bearcat) paws, which weighed 920 grammes.
Bearcats are a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Named in the prosecution’s lawsuit were Mr Watcharachai, Ms Sriwichit Ditchaem, Thasdanai Khorkrachok, Chatchai Kolo, Jirachai Tantiwattanasit, Sunthorn Macharoenrungruang, Sakan Kaengluang, Anusorn Ruenngam, Prasarn Temthanan, Ms Arun Saengsai, Thavorn Siangliew, Somkiart Pengnaren, and the Karen man known only as Tata.
Seven of the defendants – Ms Sriwichit, Mr Thasdanai, Mr Jirachai, Mr Prasarn, Ms Arun, Mr Somkiart and Mr Tata - confessed to the charges. The remaining six, including Mr Watcharachai, denied the charges.
The Kanchanaburi provincial court on Wednesday found Tata guilty of the charges and sentenced him to 7 years and two months in jail. However, the court later commuted his jail sentence to 3 years and seven months and a fine of 2,000 baht because he confessed to the charges. The jail sentence was not suspended.
The court sentenced Ms Sriwichit, Mr Thasdanai and Mr Prasan to 3 months and 15 days in jail and a fine of 3,000 baht each; Mr Jirachai, 15 days in jail and a fine of 2,750 baht; and Ms Arun and Mr Somkiart, 15 days in jail and a fine of 750 baht each. However, their jail terms were suspended for two years.
The court ordered the seven defendants to pay 561,350 baht in compensation to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
The court has set April 22 to deliver its ruling on the remaining defendants, who denied the charges.
In earlier reports in October, Tata, a caretaker at Tao Dam monastery, told park rangers that two Thai men claiming to be government officials ordered him to take them bearcat hunting in Sai Yok Noi National Park.
The rangers quoted him as admitting that he shot a bearcat, but said two men in the group led by Mr Watcharachai, who was then still assistant chief of Dan Makham Tia district, ordered him to do it.
Bearcat pawns and other weapons are seized from those involved in hunting wildlife at Sai Yok National Park in Kanchanaburi on Oct 7 last year. (Photo by Piyarat Chongcharoen)