Premchai jail term throws up surprises

Premchai jail term throws up surprises

A 16-month jail term handed to construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta by a Kanchanaburi court for illegal possession of a dead pheasant and weapons, and conspiring to poach wildlife, has drawn a mixed reaction from the public.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with a black leopard carcass found at the scene.

Mr Premchai remained calm and expressionless as he listened to the verdict being read at the Thong Pha Phum court, according to an eye witness in the courtroom.

Following the hearing, Mr Premchai curtly told media "I am sorry", after being asked for a comment on the case by reporters.

It was the first time Mr Premchai had spoken to the media since he was charged with poaching in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province in February last year.

Mr Premchai's lawyer said his client and the other defendants in the case would appeal.

Many comments on social media following the verdict read "justice is served" and "the law of karma".

The ruling came as a surprise to conservationists. "The verdict goes beyond my expectations," Ornyupa Sangkamarn, an environmental trial expert and representative of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, a conservation organisation, told the Bangkok Post in a telephone interview.

"I initially thought Mr Premchai would be given suspended jail terms because he doesn't have a criminal record," said Ms Ornyupa, adding that courts have often given suspended terms to first-time offenders.

Sasin Chalermlarp, the foundation president, wrote on his Facebook page that he wondered why the billionaire was acquitted of charges of possession of the leopard's carcass despite the fact that Premchai was present when the leopard's tail was cooked in a pot.

Locals were also surprised by the ruling.

"I believed Khun Premchai would be cleared of all wrongdoing and would walk free because he is a very rich and powerful man," said Teera Puangnoi, a Kanchanaburi resident.

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