Sergeant faces four charges for cat slaying

Sergeant faces four charges for cat slaying

An army sergeant, who sparked a social media furore for killing a protected leopard cat in Chiang Mai, faces four criminal charges, including poaching and using an unlicensed gun.

Police and National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation officials said he violated at least two laws, including the 1992 Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act.

The charges against Sgt Charoensak Phongsisuk stem from Section 16 of the act which prohibits the hunting of protected animals as well as Section 19 which bars the possession of a protected animal's carcass without permission.

The handmade gun he used to kill the animal also landed him two additional charges -- possessing a firearm without a licence and shooting without reasonable grounds.

Sgt Charoensak is attached to the 7th Infantry Division based close to Doi Suthep-Pui National Park in Chiang Mai's Mae Rim district.

"The suspect claimed he mistook the leopard cat for a common suea pla [fishing cat]. He did not know he had killed a protected species," Somwang Ruangniwatsai, head of the department's Protected Area Regional Office 16, said yesterday.

During questioning yesterday, Sgt Charoensak admitted he skinned the animal and kept the pelt because he admired its natural pattern. He denied having eaten the meat, Mr Somwang said.

When he later learned the leopard cat was protected, he tore up the pelt and buried it near to where he shot the animal.

Sgt Charoensak also confessed to killing the cat with a handmade gun he had received from an officer in his unit.

He insisted the gun was not intended for hunting.

He said he was given it after complaining that fighting roosters he had raised at the base kept disappearing and that they might have been taken by wild animals.

On the night of July 6, he hid near a chicken coop to shoot whatever animal was taking the roosters.

He opened fire when he saw the leopard cat emerging from the darkness thinking it had come for his birds.

Sgt Charoensak said he took a photo of the dead cat, not knowing it was protected and shared the picture among friends on social media.

He reportedly ran a caption next to the photo, saying he had found what had been responsible for his birds disappearing, Mr Somwang said.

Sgt Charoensak currently faces disciplinary action and has been placed in military custody.

"We will not protect any wrongdoer," said Col Chaidaen Kritsanasuwan of the 7th Infantry Division.

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